E-Payments at Record High, Federal Reserve Says

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve issued a study this week marking the demise of paper check transactions and the unprecedented rise of e-payments as the preferred commerce method of choice.

The study detailed the hastening reality that the U.S. will soon become a "checkless society" that relies almost entirely on credit, debit, and electronic payments over the Internet.

The Federal Reserve claims that electronic payments reached an estimated 44.5 billion transactions in 2003, while the number of checks paid totaled only 36.7 billion.

The Fed also stated that check usage has been petering out over the last ten years and could have an adverse affect on check printing companies, banking institutions and third-party processors, while providing a boon for Internet companies capable of processing financial transactions over the web.

In past years, check transactions accounted for the majority of all financial transactions. In 1978, 85.5 percent of all non-cash payments were done by checks, and in 2003, that number tumbled to 45 percent.

"For the first time, we're looking at a payment system in continuous decline," The Fed's Richard Oliver stated.

The study was based on statistics from financial institutions and organizations involved with electronic payments.

Data analysis firm eMarketer predicts a steady increase in e-payments over the next few years for both one-time and recurring transactions for online credit card transactions, dialers, 900 billing and ACH, as well as e-payments made outside of the U.S.