Industry Insights

The Hidden Cost of Checks in Your Contracting Business

Kristen Frisa
August 31, 2023
Link Copied!

Checks have fallen out of use for personal use in the United States, but most businesses are still processing paper checks at least some of the time.

Construction is especially stuck on paper checks. Many construction companies still send and receive checks for completed work, to pay for supplies, and even for labor costs. We’re going to do our best to change that by outlining all the hidden fees checks are costing your contracting business, and what alternative payment methods post the best solution for you now.

What checks actually cost

Because they’ve been in circulation so long, some business owners take check payments for granted as the simplest, cheapest payment method. However, using paper checks can be quite pricey. The expense of writing and delivering a check is estimated at between $4-$20 each. Where does this total cost come from? Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest contributors to the hidden costs of processing checks.

Cost to print

Preparing a check requires its own set of materials and equipment. A printer, check stock, and ink all cost money, contributing to the total cost of writing a check.

Administrative costs

Nothing about writing a paper check is automatic. The time your administrative staff takes to create and print checks, get them signed, address their envelopes, and mail them is significant. Staff must manually reconcile the accounts reflecting the check amount.

These costs can be counted in labor hours, and then again as opportunity costs. Employees that spend their time on repetitive manual tasks lose out on the bandwidth to find and capitalize on innovations within the business.

Security risk

Businesses often believe check payments to be a secure form of payment, intuitively believing electronic payments to be riskier. Statistics show the opposite. Reported check fraud increased by nearly 23% between 2020 and 2021, and then nearly doubled again to reach the 2022 total of over 680,000 payment fraud instances.

The waiting game

Construction projects depend on consistent cash flow. If money stalls while contractors wait for checks to be written, signed, and mailed, the whole project could stall too. Stalled projects mean increased overhead costs like longer equipment rentals and growing interest charges on financing. It’s easy to see why one “check in the mail” could cost a contractor thousands.

So while the myth still lingers that checks are free, the cost to write and process a check payment can easily rival other payment methods while offering a more dire risk of payment fraud. Given these drawbacks, why do contractors still write and send paper checks to pay for their materials, equipment, and labor costs?

Why are contractors still using checks?

For many contractors, checks represent the only way they’ve sent and received payments for as long as they’ve been in business. There’s comfort in the familiar, and change can be risky. For some alternatives to checks, the downsides may feel worse than potential advantages. Let’s look at alternatives to checks to see where the roadblocks lie


Cold hard cash is obviously a nonstarter for moving money in the construction industry. Sums of money moving into and out of contracting businesses are often very large. Cash is also very difficult to track.

ACH payments

Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfers have swooped in to replace checks in a lot of cases, such as payroll and personal bill payments. The drawbacks to ACH are the time it takes to transfer money and the detailed setup information required, which can cause further payment delays. ACH payments can take anywhere from a few hours to a few business days. They’re often grouped together in batches before being sent. In order to send a person funds through ACH, you need to gather their bank account number, home branch number and address, and routing numbers. Any error can lead to late payments.

Peer-to-peer digital transfer services

Apps like Venmo and Zelle are fast and easy to set up for digital payments from one personal bank account to another. Often the only information you’ll need to send money through these peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms is the recipient’s email address. What complicates their use is the weekly limits the apps or US banks impose on transferred funds. Contractors will often exceed these limits many times over just by doing regular business.

With the inherent limitations in these payment methods, it’s no wonder contractors have relied on paper checks as long as they have. However, a newer payment method can avoid these pitfalls and offer a new way to move money quickly, easily, and securely.

A new way to pay

Truss is an electronic payment method that deftly sidesteps the limitations presented by ACH and P2P digital transfer platforms – and it is built for the construction industry.

Contractors can include unique payment links on their invoices or in emails so clients can pay straight from their bank account or credit card. It’s just as easy to send payments – contractors can send funds to their trades using only an email address, but unlike with other payment methods they can send large payments all in one go. Transfers are trackable and quick, leaving out all the guesswork in construction payments, and it all happens with bank-grade security.

Time for checks to check out

Industry myths still suggest checks are the cheapest, most direct, and safest way for contractors to send and receive payments. The truth is, checks are responsible for too much wasted time and money. Material and administrative costs for writing, sending, and reconciling checks are higher than you might expect, and check fraud costs American businesses big time. It’s time to ditch the checks in favor of faster, more secure, and trackable payment options.

Get a free demo to learn how Truss can transform your construction payments.

Get the latest in construction payments first.

Forever Free

It costs you nothing

Keep your contracting business moving forward with Truss.