Americans are increasingly turning their backs on cheques in favour of electronic payment methods, particularly debit cards, according to a study from the Federal Reserve.
The study shows that the number of noncash payments in the United States increased 4.6% per year between 2006 and 2009, although the value of these transactions actually saw an annual rate of decline of 1.6%.
Last year more than three-quarters of all these US noncash payments were made electronically, with around 20 billion more e-payments made in 2009 than 2006, a 9.3% annual increase.
All types of e-payments, except credit cards grew, in the three years but debit cards are emerging as the dominate method. Their usage now exceeds all other forms of noncash payments and, by number of payments, represents approximately 35% of total noncash transactions.
The annual use of debit cards increased by over 12.8 billion payments, the largest increase by any type during the survey period, reaching 37.9 billion in 2009, a 14.8% annual growth rate.
ACH payments grew to 19.1 billion, an increase of 4.5 billion while credit card transactions declined by 0.1 billion to 21.6 billion. Pre-paid card transactions had the lowest transaction volume of all noncash payments at six billion; however, these represented the fastest growing payment type, increasing 21.5% annually.
Meanwhile, the number of cheques paid fell by about six billion, or 7.2%, over the same period, while the number written fell by about 5.7 billion, an average of 6.1% per year.
The cheque collection process also continues to become increasingly electronic over the survey period: approximately 96% of interbank cheques drawn on a different depository institution than the one at which they were deposited involved electronic clearing, compared to roughly 43% during the 2007 study. Around 13% were deposited as images at the bank of first deposit.
Richard Oliver, EVP, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, says: "Not only does this study show the continued move from checks to electronic means of making payments, but we also see the extraordinary progress the industry has made in electronifying the clearing process for the 27.5 billion checks still being written."