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Cheques will continue as a means of payment until 2018, but the cheque guarantee facility for all bank cards will end on June 30 this year. Some banks have already stopped issuing new cheque guarantee cards.

Over the next few months, banks will be contacting businesses that still use and accept guaranteed cheques to make them aware of alternative payment schemes.

According to the UK's Payments Council, which is overseeing the change, the use of the cheque guarantee system has fallen 65 per cent in the last five years and "it would be better for all parties" if its decline was coordinated by setting a closure date.

Only seven per cent of all cheques written nationally were supported by a guarantee card in 2009, but some members of the trade have said they are opposed to the scrapping of a system that assured vendors that a cheque would be honoured by the bank.

Although guarantee cards were usually valid only for cheques up to a maximum of £250, one London dealer told ATG: "This seems to have been decided by bankers not acting in the interests of their own customers. It is part of their outrageous plan to phase out cheques in general."

The eventual phasing out of cheques themselves is of even more conern to the trade, many of whom rely on them in their day-to-day business. A review of the plan is slated for 2016.

LAPADA, the art and antique dealers' association, have been looking into the issue and are in the process of polling members on the proposed changes.

The forthcoming LAPADA newsletter includes an article by Kevin Fisher, partner at Myrus Smith Chartered Accountants, who states: "The only plus point is that the timetable over the next seven years does require acceptable and widely accessible alternatives to be in place and in use before the final withdrawal of cheque clearing. Indeed, the possibility of retaining paper payments is one of the issues to be considered in the 2016 review."

Mr Smith adds: "It is perhaps a little late for protests against the basic principle of withdrawal, but it is important for all groups who may be adversely affected to make themselves heard."

For art and antiques dealers, cheques are especially important as alternative to carrying large amounts of cash at fairs, and the stubs often act as an effective record of transactions when for buying stock.

One of the key challenges for the future will be providing an acceptable alternative in this situation.

Chip-and-pin portable handsets are used at a number of fairs already, but they are generally subject to a rental charge and there can be problems obtaining a signal, particularly at events taking place in large venues.

Transactions via mobile phone are expected to become more commonplace and pre-loaded payment cards (like O2 Money) are also likely to play an increasingly important role in the coming years.

With 2018 as the projected date for phasing out cheques at the moment, the Payments Council told ATG that it was strongly committed to consulting consumers and small businesses on the issue, and then coming up with "viable alternatives".

It has launched a series of ten regional workshops in collaboration with the British Chambers of Commerce to advise and support companies on existing alternatives, and to explain what will be happening over the next few years.

More information about the workshops can be found on the Payment's Council's website: