Cheques are payment instruments with which a person (drawer or signatory) orders a bank (bank cheque) or a post office (postal cheque) to pay a sum of money to another person (payee).
A cheque is a written document marked 'bank cheque'; or 'postal cheque' or 'banker's draft', and the name of the bank that issued it. It is payable 'on demand' and can be cashed by the beneficiary upon presentation at a branch of the issuing bank.
Given the risks to which banks are exposed in the course of this activity, cheque issuance and handling are regulated by law and supervisory regulations. The use of bank cheques and banker's drafts, in particular, requires the adoption of prudent practices to avoid the pitfalls inherent in any improper usage, in view of:
- the risks associated with counterfeiting and the theft of credit securities;
- customer due diligence obligations imposed by anti-money laundering legislation.
Given the need to combat the use of cash and cheques for laundering the proceeds of illegal activities ('dirty money'), cash and bearer securities (such as cheques with no named beneficiary) for €2,000 or more cannot be exchanged between private parties without recourse to authorized intermediaries (such as banks). Moreover, in addition to the date and place of issue, amount and signature, bank cheques, banker's drafts or postal cheques for an amount equal to or more than €1,000 must indicate the beneficiary and be marked 'non-transferable'.
Those who want to process large payments securely and who in any event cannot or do not want to use another means of payment (cash, debit cards, credit or prepaid cards).
Cheques help us to keep track of expenses and payments more easily.
A banker's draft is more secure than a bank cheque because it is issued following the actual payment of the sum indicated on it. You do not have to have a current account in order to ask for a cheque to be issued: it can be requested from any bank by paying in the monies in cash.
To ensure the bank does not refuse to make the payment, when you receive a cheque you should take a number of precautions. In particular, you should verify that:
- it has been filled out in full;
- that it has not been damaged or has not been altered in any way;
- that it is completely intact (no corners missing).
When it is for €1,000 or more, the cheque must always be marked 'non-transferable'; failure to do so entails the imposition of potentially very severe administrative sanctions on those who issue or accept it.
When you cash a cheque, the money may not be available immediately on your current account; the terms and conditions for the availability of funds are set out in the agreement you have with the bank that issued the cheque book. In any event, Article 120 of the Consolidated Law on Banking provides that account holders must have access to the sums recorded on bank cheques or banker's drafts linked to their accounts, whether issued by or drawn on a bank established in Italy, within four working days of deposit.
To issue bank or postal cheques the drawer (the person who signs the cheque) must have a current account or must have deposited their signature with the issuing bank or post office. The cost of the cheque book, which contains up to 20 cheques, varies from €0 to €10.
A banker's draft can also be requested by those who do not have a current account. As a rule, it has no issuance fee, except for €1.50 in stamp duty.
The current account holder is given a cheque book with each cheque already marked 'non-transferable'. If, instead, the current account holder wants an 'open' cheque book, they must make a specific request, paying a stamp duty of €1.50 for each cheque.
A banker's cheque can be cashed within 8 days if it is collected in the same town as it was issued (town cheque) or within 15 days if in a different city (out-of-town cheque). Once 15 days have elapsed, the cheque can still be cashed but if the funds are unavailable the beneficiary cannot appeal to the person who wrote it (drawer) unless they undertake a legal action to enforce their credit claim.
A drawer's cheque can be cashed at the branches of the issuing bank up to 30 days following the date of issue; once this deadline has passed, the cheque can still be cashed but there are fewer safeguards in place.
Please note the value date on the cheque, because there is a gap of a number of days between the deposit of the cheque and actual availability of the sum. The value date is the time that elapses between the deposit and the moment when the amount is actually credited to the beneficiary's account.
The post-dating of a cheque is not permitted by law, but this does not prevent such cheques from being presented for collection. Issuing an uncovered or partly covered cheque is a serious offence and is liable to pecuniary and prohibitive sanctions, such as a ban on issuing cheques for a certain period of time and registration in the Interbank Register of Bad Cheques and Payment Cards (CAI), established at the Bank of Italy.
It is not uncommon for people to be overly hasty or superficial when writing a cheque. It is not, in fact, an especially difficult process but nonetheless care must be taken to fill it out properly and to use indelible ink. In particular, the following information must be included:
- the place (municipality) in which you are issuing the cheque;
- the date of issue; the amount, in figures and written out in full, always with two decimal places even if the amount is equal to zero;
- the name of the beneficiary, or of the person or company to whom the cheque is made out;
- the signature, which is the signing of the payment order.
- INTERBANK REGISTER OF BAD CHEQUES AND PAYMENT CARDS
A computerized archive set up by the Bank of Italy to ensure the smooth functioning of the payment system. The register contains data on:
- persons who have issued unauthorized or uncovered bank and postal cheques;
- persons whose authorization to use credit and/or debt cards has been revoked because of failure to pay amounts due for transactions conducted.
In the case of cheques, registration in the CAI results in ‘system-wide revocation’, meaning that the person is barred from issuing cheques and opening new cheque facilities at any bank branch or postal office within the system for six months.
As regards payment cards, a person is entered into the register when their authorization to use a credit or debit card has been revoked for two years. However, registration is only of informational value. This means that any issuer can decide for itself whether or not to issue a card to a person listed in the register.