The most common example of an on-demand payment system is the check.
Pay to order is a financial term that means that a single individual, company or group has direct ownership of a specific financial instrument. This means that the person or representative specified must be the person responsible for transferring or dissolving the document. This is directly opposed to a pay-to-barer document, which allows anyone in its possession full financial control over the content. In modern finance, the most common payment documents to request are personal and business checks.
Both pay-to-order and pay-to-barer have been around since the early days of large-scale banking and commerce. Each of the methods has its own goals and risks, giving each a strong presence to this day. These terms describe the basic way in which the final recipient of the payment document approaches the situation.
Pay to Barer documents are the less common of the two. Using this method, ownership of a document gives you full legal and financial control over the terms it contains. Originally, they were used when the journey was longer and more difficult. The original issuer would not necessarily know who the person presenting the document to the payer would be. To avoid possible payment issues, the payee was left open.
The problem with this system often revolves around theft or greed. Once the document changes hands, ownership also changes. When the situation is less reliable or ownership cannot be guaranteed, people use a pay-to-order system. This means that the document specifies a specific owner and ownership has no legal meaning.
The most common example of an on-demand payment system is a check; in fact, most checks say ‘pay in order of’ directly on them. When a check is issued, the payer creates a document that says he owes a certain amount of money to a specific person or group. This document is a set of instructions that a bank will follow when the check is presented. A pay to order check is a contract between the payer, the payee and the bank. This is why checks usually have three signatures when they are cashed; the payer, payee and a stamp of the bank where the check was processed.
When one person cannot be present for a pay-on-demand transaction, it is possible to sign the document for another person. The original owner specifies the new owner, signs the document and gives it to the new owner. On a check, this is typically done on the back so that a clear line of possession is visible, but the same basic method can be used on any form of payment to place the order.