Initial findings from the 2022 triennial Federal Reserve Payments Study (Off-site) released in April 2023 found that the average values of consumers' and businesses' ACH, check and card payments increased substantially from 2018 to 2021. The data also show that consumers and businesses made more noncash payments, increasing the total value of noncash payments in the same time period.
Having increased at a rate of 9.5% per year since 2018, noncash payment value reached $128.51 trillion in 2021 (Off-site). This rate of increase was more than twice that of the previous three-year period (2015 to 2018) and more than three times the increase rate from 2000 to 2018. The value increase from 2018 to 2021 partially reflects increases in the average value of each component of core noncash payments (ACH, check and card payments).
By number and value, the rate of increase in ACH transfers from 2018 to 2021 accelerated to 8.3% per year and 12.7% per year, respectively. ACH transfers surpassed checks as the highest-value noncash payment method (Off-site) in 2009 and grew to $91.85 trillion in 2021, or 72% of core noncash payments value.
The value of check payments increased slightly (0.6% per year) despite a significant drop in the number of check payments. The average value of check payments increased to $2,430 in 2021 from $1,908 in 2018. By number, checks have declined at a rate of 7.2% per year since 2018, dropping to 11.2 billion. In 2021, the value of check payments stood at $27.23 trillion, which was approximately 21% of noncash payments value.
Rising 10.0% per year since 2018, card payments value reached $9.43 trillion in 2021, or approximately 7% of noncash payments value. Among the card types, the value of prepaid debit card payments have grown at the greatest rate since 2018, or 20.6% per year and reached $0.61 trillion in 2021. However, they remained a relatively small part (6.5%) of the value of all card payments.
Specifically, the number of noncash payments grew by 30.7 billion in 2021, increasing to 204.5 billion. The 5.6% growth rate in 2021 was smaller than the growth rate from 2015 to 2018 (6.6%).
Despite a temporary drop in 2020 (Off-site), the number of card payments grew by 25.9 billion from 2018 to 2021. Nevertheless, the rate of increase in the number of card payments from 2018 to 2021, at 6.2% per year, was lower than the growth of approximately 9.9% per year recorded from 2000 to 2018. With 157.0 billion payments in 2021, card payments accounted for approximately 77% of noncash payments by number.
Non-prepaid debit cards reached 87.8 billion payments, or approximately 56% of all card payments in 2021. Credit card payments had the second largest increase in 2021, rising to 51.1 billion, or about one-third of all card payments. Prepaid debit card payments had the greatest growth rate by number (9.6% per year), reaching 18.1 billion payments in 2021.
ATM cash withdrawals declined at a rate of 10.1% per year, falling to 3.7 billion in 2021. By value, ATM cash withdrawals also declined, but at a slower rate, reflecting an increase in the average value of an ATM cash withdrawal from $156 in 2018 to $198 in 2021.
Additional details will be available in future releases. For the current report, including figures, visit the Federal Reserve Payments Study (Off-Site) page on the Board of Governors’ website.
The Federal Reserve Payments Study is a collaborative effort of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The triennial study has been conducted every three years since 2001 with annual supplements since 2017. The study develops aggregate estimates using data collected from voluntary surveys of depository institutions, card networks and other major payment processors.