Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. inched forward with real-time payments last year, after the launch of the Federal Reserve’s FedNow instant payment service last July, according to a Tuesday report from payments processor ACI Worldwide and data and analytics company GlobalData.
  • The annual report, now in its fifth year, said that the U.S. had 3.5 billion real-time transactions in 2023, a 25% increase from 2.8 billion the previous year. Worldwide, there were about 266 billion such transactions globally last year, representing a 42% increase year-over-year, the report said.
  • Instant payment systems like FedNow “remove payments friction, provide greater liquidity in the financial system, and ultimately drive economic growth and financial inclusion,”  ACI Worldwide’s Chief Product Officer Debbie Guerra said in a related press release. “Banks should consider whether they are truly maximizing the real-time rails in their market.”

Dive Insight:

The U.S. ranked 11th in the world in terms of global real-time payments adoption, based on total 2023 transactions, according to ACI Head of Real-Time Payments Craig Ramsey. It slipped to 35th in the world on a per capita count, he said in an email. 

This year’s report builds on previous research from Coral Gables, Florida-based ACI Worldwide. Last year, the U.S. ranked eighth in the world in terms of total transactions for 2022, and 33rd on a per capita count. Similarly, an ACI real-time payments report the prior year, regarding 2021 transactions, said Brazil, China, India, South Korea and Thailand outpaced the U.S. in real-time payments adoption.

“Real-time payments are still in their infancy in the U.S., accounting for only a 1.5% share of the total payments volume in 2023,” this year’s report said. “Growth will come more quickly in the coming years,” thanks to the launch of FedNow, “but there is still a long way to go to reach levels of usage seen in some European markets,” according to the report.

One reason for this optimism is a desire from U.S. merchants to cut costs by using instant payments, Ramsey said in an interview. “In the U.S., we are seeing an active commercial desire by merchants, e-commerce retailers to engage on instant payments,” he explained in a Thursday interview. 

While FedNow may not have large payment volumes yet, it has spurred financial institutions to consider using both the Clearing House’s RTP Network and the Fed’s service, Ramsey said. “The FedNow network launching has prompted financial institutions to look at their real time strategy.” Those institutions are coming to the conclusion that they shouldn’t be picking one or the other, but rather both, he said.

India continued its dominance in total instant payment transactions for 2023, with about 130 billion such payments. It was followed by Brazil, Thailand, China and South Korea. Of those countries, Brazil led the pack in year-over-year growth in payments volume, expanding its real-time payments use by nearly 78%, followed by India, Thailand, South Korea and China.

Global real-time transactions are expected to reach about 575 billion by 2028, representing a five-year compound annual growth rate of about 17%, ACI projected in the report. For the U.S., that will mean about 14 billion real-time transactions by 2028, representing a five-year CAGR of about 32%.

In commenting on U.S. progress, Ramsey said he “would have been all doom and gloom” two or three years ago, but his tune has changed now. “I think the U.S. is catching up quickly,” he said.


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