Tesco is to stop accepting personal cheques from shoppers despite concerns that this may disadvantage older customers.
The supermarket giant says that from 25 February it will only accept payments by cash, debit card or credit card. It says scrapping cheque payments will speed up the service at checkouts and also prevent cheque fraud.
However, Tesco stores will continue to accept business cheques authorised by Transax at customer service desks and petrol filling stations only.
From 1 March, Marks & Spencer will also stop allowing customers to pay by personal cheque.
Mervyn Kohler, spokesman for charity Help the Aged, says: "Tesco is narrowing down the options for older people in a frightening way.
"Many older people are still concerned about the security of card payments and prefer familiar payment methods like cash and cheques.
"Cheques still remain a very important channel that older people rely on, and it is rather premature to be withdrawing it while people still want to pay in this way.
"The right way forward is to provide people with several different options."
Figures from APACS, the UK payment association, show that five million adults use cheques on a regular basis with women 52% more likely to pay by cheque than men.
But it estimates that by 2015 personal cheques will only account for 2.3% of all non-cash payments.