Two-thirds of US households pay bills online - Checkfree

Source: Checkfree

CheckFree Corporation (NASDAQ:CKFR) today announced the most recent results of its survey, "The Latest Consumer Billing and Payment Trends," conducted every nine months by CheckFree Research Services with The Marketing Workshop, Inc. and Harris Interactive.

The survey, which tracks bill payment behavior, revealed that 69 percent of U.S. online households say they are paying at least one bill online, up from 56 percent in March 2005. This includes consumers who pay any bill from a single "consolidated" website, such as a bank, and those who pay individual bills at a "biller direct" website, such as a telecommunications or credit card company. Online payments are steadily replacing check writing as the way to pay bills among those surveyed - with paper checks used for 37.5 percent of all bill payments and online payments used for 35 percent.

Interest in subscribing to a consolidated bill payment service was also higher among households that do not currently pay bills online, with 19 percent indicating they were "definitely interested" - up from 15 percent in 2005. Among consumers who recently enrolled in a consolidated service, the most influential source of information in their decision was the bank branch, followed by the bank website and word-of-mouth recommendations. Over the past three years, the percentage of consumers citing the influential role of the branch has almost doubled.

"As paying bills online has evolved into a mainstream consumer activity, ironically, face to face interactions such as conversations with account managers or tellers, and brochures given out at the bank branch, remain the most effective way to market the service," says Matt Lewis, executive vice president and general manager of CheckFree's Electronic Commerce Division. "The website must also be easy to use to lead interested consumers through the enrollment process, then on to making payments and receiving bills online."

Consumers who currently pay bills online at a consolidated site indicate the leading benefits of the service are convenience, ease of use, control and speed of payment. When asked to rate the most important overall benefit, current users said paying bills online: saves paper, stamps and hassle (28 percent); is the easiest way to pay bills (16 percent); ensures bills are paid on the day of their choice (12 percent); and is faster than paying by check (11 percent).

Electronic bills enhance consumer satisfaction

Electronic bills (e-bills) contain the same information as a typical paper bill and are delivered directly to a consumer's consolidated bill pay account or a biller direct website. Of all online consumers, consolidated users with e-bill were the most satisfied with their bank, online banking and their bill payment service.

61 percent of consolidated users with e-bill rated themselves as very satisfied with online banking, versus 54 percent of consolidated users without e-bill and 51 percent of consumers who use online banking but do not pay bills online.

E-bill users said they were more likely to recommend electronic bill payment to a friend or relative - making 1.9 recommendations on average over the past three months versus customers without e-bill service making 1.2 recommendations.

Consumers who currently use e-bill selected the top three reasons why they choose to receive electronic bills via their consolidated service as: making sure the bill is paid on time (26 percent); convenience - just click and pay (22 percent); and e-mail reminders (17 percent).

Cost has virtually been eliminated as a barrier to adoption. Currently, 91 percent of users who pay their bills from a single consolidated website, such as a bank, brokerage or credit union, say they receive the service for free. Among the surveyed consumers who are not currently paying their bills online, the most common barrier to adoption was lack of information about the service, followed by security concerns.

According to a study released by Javelin Strategy & Research and the Better Business Bureau and sponsored by CheckFree, Wells Fargo Bank and Visa USA, when known, 90 percent of unauthorized access to sensitive information is through nonelectronic traditional channels, such as a lost or stolen wallet. The study recommends that consumers replace paper invoices, statements and checks, which can be stolen from unsecured locations such as mailboxes, with electronic versions to help prevent identity theft. The study also recommends that consumers monitor bank account activity through the phone, ATM or Internet to detect potentially fraudulent activity more quickly than through paper statements.

The CheckFree-sponsored study was conducted in December 2005 by The Marketing Workshop and Harris Interactive via an Internet survey of 2,230 consumers 18 years of age and older who pay at least some of their household bills. CheckFree has conducted the Consumer Billing and Payment Trends study with similar survey items at six regular intervals since 2001.

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