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Trends in the use of payment instruments in the United States


  • Geoffrey R. Gerdes
  • May X. Liu
  • Darrel W. Parke
  • Jack K. Walton


In 2003, for the first time, the number of electronic payments in the United States exceeded the number of check payments--a result of substantial growth in electronic payments (especially by debit card) and a decline in check payments. The shift toward electronic payments suggests that, as with other large economies, many payments formerly made by check are now being made with electronic payment instruments. As in past years, however, the value of checks far exceeded the value of commonly used electronic payments. ; Comparisons among groups of depository institutions of different types and sizes suggest that the distribution of payments of different types is linked in part to the types of customers those institutions tend to serve. For example, at credit unions, which generally serve individuals rather than businesses, checks accounted for a smaller proportion of account debits, and debit card payments and ATM withdrawals accounted for a larger proportion, than at institutions of other types. ; Overall, \\"on us\\" check payments, those for which the payer and payee used the same institution, declined slightly. The rate at which checks are returned also declined, while the rate of returned ACH payments--almost twice that of checks--increased, in part because of new types of ACH payments, including ACH transactions initiated with a check. ; Data gathered in 2004 also reveal some differences among geographic regions. Debit card use was substantially greater, and check use substantially lower, in the West than in other regions. In contrast, debit card use was considerably less common in the Northeast, and the decline in check payments since 2000 was less pronounced in that region. ; Indirect evidence--data on ATM withdrawals and cash back from debit card payments--suggests that cash remains a popular means of making payments. Industry data showing increases in ATMs and ATM transactions appear to reflect a shift toward greater use of ATMs and less use of checks to obtain cash, and do not necessarily indicate an increase in the use of cash.

Suggested Citation

  • Geoffrey R. Gerdes & May X. Liu & Darrel W. Parke & Jack K. Walton, 2005. "Trends in the use of payment instruments in the United States," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), vol. 91(Spr), pages 180-201.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgrb:y:2005:i:spr:p:180-201:n:v.91no.2
    DOI: 10.17016/bulletin.2005.91-2-3

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    Payment systems; Checks;

    JEL classification:

    • E42 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Monetary Sytsems; Standards; Regimes; Government and the Monetary System
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages


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