How does your employer pay you? It turns out that technology has a lot to do with how we all get paid in the modern era. Getting paid in 2019 is a lot different than what our grandparents and great grandparents knew 100 years ago. Technology has changed nearly every part of the equation.
Though technology does have its drawbacks, our system is far better today. We can get paid online, in person, or a combination of both. We can receive cash, paper checks and, in some cases, even cryptocurrency payments. Today’s payroll arena is a lot bigger and more inclusive than at any other time in the past. It is truly amazing.
Cash on the Barrel
So, just how did our grandparents and great grandparents get paid? More often than not, pay was issued as cash on the barrel so to speak. A man or woman would go to work at a factory in anticipation of being paid, in cash, either daily or weekly. Cash payments were sometimes issued with a paper record that employees could keep for their own reference.
It is interesting to note that paper checks already existed in the early 20th century. In fact, they first began to appear in America nearly 100 years before we actually became a nation. Checks were utilized by colonial businessman who mortgaged their properties to pay their bills. The checks were written against their mortgages.
Back then however, there were fewer banks. Moreover, banks were not set up to deal with a large number of checks. That meant there were few businesses that utilized checks for any purpose. They paid in cash whenever they could.
It wasn’t until after World War II that business checking accounts really took off in this country. With businesses and banks rebuilding and benefiting from a suddenly booming economy, it became clear that cash payments were no longer the only option. Check printing and accounting technologies gave rise to more companies opening business checking accounts.
Direct Deposit Payroll
The next big technology leap for payroll was the introduction of direct deposit in the late 1980s. It was a bit slower to catch on due to a ton of technical glitches, but it had become mainstream by the mid-1990s. According to Dallas-based BenefitMall, the vast majority of U.S. workers today are still paid via direct deposit.
Convenience is arguably the biggest advantage here. Employers do not have to print paper checks and distribute them to workers. For their part, workers don’t have to run to the bank to deposit their checks. Everything is done seamlessly and in the background.
Just a few years ago, technology brought us the payroll card. What is a payroll card? It is the payroll equivalent of a prepaid debit card. The card issuer accepts and holds funds belonging to a worker just as a traditional bank accepting a direct deposit would. The worker has access to his or her money through a plastic card that is used just like any other debit card.
We finally come to the most recent of all technological advances: advance pay made possible through mobile apps. Advance pay gives workers access to already earned money through a provider who makes the initial payment. That provider receives matching funds from the employer. Different providers offer different levels of service, so employers have to shop around to find a plan they like.
We have come a long way from cash payments. Thanks to technology, there are many more ways to get paid in the 21st century. There is nothing wrong with that.