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bank-machine Though the banking system has undergone many changes over the course of time, bank checks are one of the constants that have always been a staple of the system. People and companies have been using bank checks as promissory notes as far back as the ancient Roman Empire and the practice of ordering bank checks continues today.

Earliest Use of Bank Checks

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.

The Medieval Period

Another variation of the modern day bank check system developed in Europe around the middle ages. During that time, the banking center known as the Knights Templar used a check system to hold money for people who took trips across Europe. These people would deposit their money at one station, and then claim it from another by proof of a claim draft. This was one of the earliest uses of a paper check system for claiming funds. It is thought that the Knights picked up this idea from Muslims, who had been using it for a few hundred years prior.

Bill of Exchange

The roots of the current check system come from what was known as a “bill of exchange” by early bankers. Using this system, early banks would allow people to pay necessary bills using bank mandated orders. This made commerce much easier, as people could participate in trade without the need for a large exchange of gold or currency. Overall, this was a necessary development, as carrying around large amounts of coin was both difficult and dangerous for traveling merchants.

Bank Checks in the United States

In the U.S., bank checks were brought over during the Colonial period by European individuals. The system became prevalent and popular in Europe during the early 1700s, so it was natural that the colonists would pick up on the system. As banks have become more complicated in the last 100 years, more and more systems of control and security have been added to bank checks in order to protect the consumer.