A Brief History of Bank Checks

Though they have evolved a lot over the years, the banking system’s bank checks have always been a part of the system. Bank checks have been used as promissory notes here in the present and even as far back as the ancient Roman Empire and the practice of ordering the checks still goes on today.

Ancient Romans are thought to have been the first to use a form of bank checks, though the system was not nearly as complicated or regulated as it is today. Records indicate that they used what were known as praescriptiones as early as 100 BC. Nearly four hundred years later, bankers in the Persian Empire utilized a similar system of credit.

Another particular variation of our contemporary bank check system was developed in Europe during the middle ages. The Knights Templar, a banking center during that time, to hold money for people traveling across Europe, used a check system. These individuals would then deposit the money at one station and simply claim it from another with the aid of a proof of claim draft. This was perhaps the earliest form of paper check that was used for the purpose of claiming funds. It is thought that Muslims used this system for several hundreds of years before the Knights began to use it.

Today’s check system is derived from the “bill of exchange” which was developed in earlier times by the bankers of that period. This system allowed bankers to receive bill payments by making use of bank mandated orders. People were then able to buy and sell goods without handling gold or other currency, making trade much easier and safer for the merchants.

In the United States, European individuals brought bank checks to existence during the Colonial time. In the early 1700’s, the system was so extremely popular in Europe that the colonists also adopted it. Bank security procedures have become far more complicated over the past decades. The changes made to bank checks are there to protect you, the consumer.