May 10, 2024 - Business

The U.S. lags in real time payments

Area chart showing the Global annual volume of real-time payments from 2016 to 2028, with 2023 estimated and 2024-2028 projected. The U.S. takes up a fraction of total real-time payments, Beginning with $55 million in 2016, and projected to be  $6 trillion of the nearly $280 trillion in 2028.
Data: ACI Worldwide/Global Data; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Real-time payments are one of the fastest-growing areas of the global financial architecture — and the U.S. remains far behind, per a new report from ACI Worldwide.

Why it matters: Real-time payments, where money can be sent straight into the recipient's account within seconds, "are faster, cheaper, and more accessible and convenient — they reduce costs and improve liquidity for businesses and help banks achieve greater efficiency," per the ACI report.

Where it stands: The U.S. has had private-sector real-time payments since 2017; it also has a newer central-bank-backed system, FedNow. It significantly lags, say, Brazil's central-bank-backed PIX, which launched in 2020.

By the numbers: Brazil saw 37 billion real-time payments in 2023 collectively worth $4 trillion. The U.S., by contrast, had only 3.5 billion payments worth $1 trillion.

  • Even with the Fed solidly behind real-time payments, they still account for a "negligible" proportion of total payments volume — and are likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future, per ACI.

The bottom line: The Fed and the Clearing House have both made real-time payments possible. Neither, however, seems to have built a product compelling enough to change entrenched habits.

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