BOSTON-New data collected by the Federal Reserve System suggest check writing in the United States is steadily giving way to electronic forms of payment as consumers, businesses, and financial institutions seek to be more efficient and cost-effective. “The Federal Reserve Banks conducted the study to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of the retail payment system,” Fed Vice Chairman Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., said “and we believe the results clearly paint a picture of a payments system in migration.” Approximately 80 billion retail payments are made annually. Nearly 50 billion are paid by check and 30 billion by electronic instruments, including credit cards, debit cards and the automated clearing house, according to the Fed. Checks have declined from 85% of non-cash payments since the last study in 1979 to about 60% today. The total non-cash retail payments has doubled from 37 billion to 80 billion in the last 22 years. Check usage has expanded about 55% since the 1979 study finding of 32 billion transactions. This is the first comprehensive study of the retail payments system by the Fed in more than 20 years. About 1,300 financial institutions, including banks, thrifts and credit unions, and 89 electronic payment processors responded to three surveys.

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