An electronic check sounds like a contradiction in terms. A check is a slip of paper, torn from a long, thin book, that orders the bank to give a sum of money to the person named on the top line. As a form of payment, only cash can be easier to understand.

But in an age when cash is rarely used and even books are read on screens, the use of paper feels outdated. In fact, checks have long used some form of digitization so a move from paper input to screen typing has always seemed inevitable. Now that the shift is largely complete, both businesses and customers can enjoy a method of payment that is simple, safe, cheap and secure.

eChecks aren’t the fastest form of payment. A transfer from a digital payment platform will be faster. The recent rise of peer-to-peer payment services have eaten further into the need to write checks for small amounts but for people who need to make regular payments or want to accept payments online, a digital version of a check remains one useful option.

Buyers can use them when they don’t want to show their credit card number. Businesses can accept them when they don’t want to pay the credit card company’s fees. Stores both online and offline can offer them as an option to customers and benefit from the speed of digital transactions, the low cost of a written check and the familiarity of a method that has been tried and used for centuries.

The story of Albert Haddock writing a check on the side of a cow is resonant and remembered because it’s so ridiculous. But if you had told A.P. Herbert in 1930 that less than a hundred years later, people would be writing their checks with their fingers on glass screens that they keep in their pockets, sending them through the air, and receiving their payments within a day or two, he might well have thought writing a check on the side of a cow sounded a lot more believable.