Federal Reserve: Non-cash payments see record growth

The value of non-cash payments grew at a record 9.5 percent annual clip from 2018-21, according to the Federal Reserve’s 2022 Payments Study.

“This rate of increase was more than twice the rate of increase in the previous three-year period and more than three times the rate of increase from 2000-18,” the Fed stated. “The increase in value reflects, in part, increases in the average value of each of the components of automated clearinghouse, check and card payments.”  

 The rise in ACH transfers accounted for more than 90 percent of the increase. As of 2021, ACH transfers accounted for 72 percent or just under $92 trillion of the total $128.5 trillion in non-cash payments in 2021. 

Driven by a sharp rise in card payments, the number of non-cash payments increased by 30.7 billion to 204.5 billion in 2021, according to the report. “The growth rate, at 5.6 percent per year, was smaller than the growth rate from 2015 to 2018 (6.6 percent),” the Fed noted. 

The study collected information from the 2021 calendar year on non-cash payment methods used by consumers, businesses and governments — payments by general-purpose and private-label cards, ACH transfers and checks and ATM cash withdrawals. 

Other report findings included:

  • The average value of check payments increased 0.6 percent per year from 2018-21, despite a 7.2 percent yearly drop in the number of check payments. The average value of check payments was $2,430 as of 2021, compared to $1,908 in 2018. 
  • The value of card payments increased 10 percent annually from 2018-21, reaching $9.43 trillion or 7 percent of the value of non-cash payments. Prepaid debit card payments grew by an annual clip of 20.6 percent, reaching $610 billion or 6.5 percent of the value of all card payments in 2021. 
  • In terms of card payments, the number of non-prepaid debit cards increased the most of all types, reaching 87.8 billion or approximately 56 percent of all card payments in 2021. Credit card payments saw the second-largest increase, rising to 51.1 billion or roughly one-third of all card payments as of two years ago. 
  • The number of ATM cash withdrawals dropped at a rate of 10.1 percent per year, according to the report, falling to 3.7 billion in 2021. ATM cash withdrawals also declined by value, but at a slower pace, which the Fed said reflects an increase in the average value of an ATM withdrawal to $198 in 2021 from $156 in 2018.