The Cheque Guarantee Card scheme ceases today, 41 years after it was first introduced. Cheques with a guarantee number on the back will no longer be covered by the banks if the customer's account lacks the money to cover the cost.

Last year, at least 95 million cheques were written with a guarantee number on the back, although that was only about 7% of the total number of cheques written. For many tradespeople, the guarantee card has been important for preventing fraud and making sure that they get paid.

Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers said: "Many people will write out a cheque, whether or not they've got money in the bank."

In 2008, UK retail banks paid out £43 million as a result of people using guaranteed cheques when they didn't actually have the money in the bank.

Mullins said he fears his business will lose out when the guarantee system comes to an end. "No cheque card means cheques may not clear. It's going to be absolute chaos to do away with it."

He also worries that many people will switch to using cash to make payments instead, which might encourage people to try and avoid paying VAT.

Despite predictions of a cashless society there are more notes in circulation than ever: the number of £50 notes has increased by 20% since 2008.

Cheques still work as a form of payment without the guarantee, but are themselves due to be withdraw as a payment method in 2018. Banks cite falling usage, in part caused by a declining number of retailers willing to accept cheques as payment.