Electronic Payments Surpass Paper Checks

Electronic payments surpass paper checks (USA Today)

For the first time, Americans’ use of credit cards, debit cards and other electronic bill paying has eclipsed paper checks. The number of electronic payment transactions last year totaled 44.5 billion — exceeding the number of checks paid, 36.7 billion — according to Federal Reserve studies released Monday.
That’s a first, the Fed said. “The balance has shifted from check writing to electronic payments, and we expect this trend to continue,” said Richard Oliver, senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Federal Reserve banks’ product manager for retail payments.

In the Fed’s previous research, the number of consumer and business checks paid in 2000 came to 41.9 billion, while the number of credit cards, debt cards and other electronic payments totaled 30.6 billion.
The shift seen in 2003 toward more electronic payments reflects the expanding role of technology in the retail, financial and banking businesses, private economists said. It also reflects industry’s efforts to make electronic payments more convenient for customers, economists said. “It’s all about convenience. No longer do consumers want to write checks with two forms of identification. It’s just too cumbersome,” said Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research. “It’s so much easier to swipe and sign.” Yamarone also believed that incentives linked to credit cards and some other electronic payments is a factor behind their increasing use. “You don’t get any air miles for writing checks,” he said.

The studies’ results aren’t surprising, Yamarone said. He confesses he has written only two checks this year, both to cover the costs of dry cleaning.

Indeed. I’ve written no more than four or five checks in the past year, and that number will likely decline as my pizza delivery place now takes charge cards.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    I ran out of checks 2 years ago… Never re-orderd. That said, I need to do that one day, the grass guy and the maid get annoyed if I don’t have cash.

  2. Iceman 1955 says:

    As a Visa employee I am happy to see this. We have seen such growth in the last 3-5 years. When we get busy our systems are handling close to 3000 authorizations a second.