The 2019 Federal Reserve Payments Study (Off-site), released in December 2019, found that growth in debit card, credit card and Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments continued to accelerate from 2015 to 2018, while check payments continued their long-run decline. The Federal Reserve Payments Study is a collaborative effort by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to track and document developments in the U.S. payment system through the collection of quantitative survey data. The 2019 Federal Reserve Payments Study is the seventh in a series of triennial studies conducted by the Federal Reserve System since 2001 to estimate aggregate trends in noncash payments in the United States.

Highlights of results

  • The number of core noncash payments, comprising debit card, credit card, ACH and check payments, reached 174.2 billion in 2018, an increase of 30.6 billion from 2015. The value of these payments totaled $97.04 trillion in 2018, an increase of $10.25 trillion from 2015.

    Figure 1. Trends in noncash payments, by number, 2000-18
    Figure 2. Trends in noncash payments, by value, 2000-18

  • Value and number growth rates for noncash payments exceeded those of the prior period, 2012–2015. The value increased by $10.25 trillion to $97.04 trillion. The number increased by 30.6 billion payments to 174.2 billion.
    Noncash payments, 2015 and 2018
  • By number, most noncash payments were made by cards. By value, most were by ACH.

    Shares of non-cash payments 2018

  • Total ACH payments, comprising both credit transfers and debit transfers, grew 6.0% per year by number and 7.2% per year by value from 2015 to 2018, faster by both measures than from 2012 to 2015.

    Check payments and ACH debit transfers, 2000 and 2018

  • In 2018, for the first time, the number of ACH debit transfers (16.6 billion) exceeded the number of check payments (14.5 billion). In 2000, in contrast, the number of ACH debit transfers stood at 2.1 billion compared to 42.6 billion check payments.
  • In a return to the more accelerated decline observed from 2003 to 2012, the number of check payments fell 7.2% per year from 2015 to 2018. After increasing from 2012 to 2015, the value of check payments resumed its decline, decreasing 4.0% per year from 2015 to 2018.

    Checks paid by billions

  • In-person, general-purpose card payments increasingly involved chip authentication. More than half (56.7%) used chip authentication in 2018 compared with 2.0% in 2015.
    Chip authenticated
  • The number of ATM cash withdrawals was 5.1 billion in 2018, a slight decline of 0.1 billion from 2015. The average value of ATM cash withdrawals continued to rise, increasing to $156 in 2018 from $146 in 2015, accordant with the continued decrease in the total number and the continued rise in the total value of ATM cash withdrawals.

    Figure 9. On-us and foreign ATM cash withdrawals, by number and value, 2003-18

What payments data is available now?

Data and reports from all years of the Federal Reserve Payments Study, from 2000 through 2019, are available on the Federal Reserve Payments Study (Off-Site) page on the Board of Governors’ website.

What else is the Fed doing to examine payments?

Complementary efforts are under way to examine fraud, fraud prevention and fraud mitigation. They include:

  • The Strategies for Improving the U.S. Payment System (Off-site) Secure Payments strategy, through which the Fed is leading collaborative efforts with the industry to examine and mitigate payments fraud
  • Surveys by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis to collect qualitative data about the ways that financial institutions and merchants combat fraud
  • Surveys by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta that ask a nationally representative sample of consumers about their experience with payments fraud
  • Reports of fraud information by debit-card issuers under Regulation II

Action Item:

For the full report, including charts and data tables, visit the Federal Reserve Payments Study (Off-Site) page on the Board of Governors’ website.

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