Banking: Who's Afraid of The Big Blank Check?

The "universal" check, along with its subspecies the "counter" check, remains a staunch standby of Americans who find themselves out of modern, magnetically coded personal checks, credit cards or even old-fashioned cash. But in an age when 44 million checks are cashed and processed daily by speedy check-reading machines, the uncoded universal kind is about as handy as wampum—and the Federal Reserve System would like to see it go the same way.

Hoping to stamp out uncoded checks of all sorts, which account for a troublesome 2% of its daily traffic, the Fed has relegated them to a sort of second-rate...

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