When moving to the US from Switzerland, I have been surprised by the difference in banking systems. One point that interests me particularly is the use of checks vs wire transfers.

In Switzerland, the default way of paying somebody is to transfer money to their account. This is free, can be done online, and the money arrives the next day. It's a bit like PayPal, except that payments cannot be undone.

In the US, from what I've learned so far, to pay somebody I write a check on their name. The payee then brings the check to a bank to receive the money. Wire transfers in the US seem to incur high fees.

From a newcomer's perspective, the US system seems more complicated, more expensive, and more prone to fraud. What are its advantages? Why are things the way they are?

  • My answer in the question I linked to was redacted. The original wording of what now reads as "very slow to change" was retarded.
    – littleadv
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 6:15
  • 1
    Having lived and worked in Switzerland, I have to say that "more complicated" is all in what you're used to. The advantages of the US system, besides familiarity, are that you don't have to go on line (or know details about their bank account) to pay someone. The US is a much larger and more spread out country than Switzerland, and there are many area with no practical access.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 17:30
  • @jamesqf Wire transfers don't require you to be online. In former days, in Europe (or at least in Germany), you filled out an order to the bank to tell it to pay the amount of XY to YX. At least (!) since the 1950es, completely without internet.
    – glglgl
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 8:27
  • @glglgl: Explain exactly how that "order to the bank" differs from a check :-)
    – jamesqf
    Commented Feb 16, 2019 at 18:16
  • @jamesqf The order to the bank goes directly to the bank. The check goes to the recipient, with all its consequences.
    – glglgl
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 8:37


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