WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Any way you look at it and regardless of which set of numbers you go by, one fact remains: the number and value of checks being written by consumers is declining. The Federal Reserve didn’t have to release the revised numbers it did in August in its Retail Payments Research Project Report to confirm statistically what many check providers and corporate credit unions that handle item processing already had seen evidence of. The new numbers released by the Fed showed consumers wrote 42.5 billion checks in 2000 valued at $39.3 trillion, not the 49.5 billion checks the Fed reported earlier valued at $47.7 billion. In 2001, the Fed processed 16,905,016,000 checks, down 0.5% from the number of checks it processed the previous year. In comparison, the Fed’s automated clearing house (ACH) volume increased by 16.7% in 2001 to 4,448,361,000 items, compared to 2000. Meanwhile, a recently released survey jointly sponsored by NACHA’s Council for Electronic Billing and Payment (CEBP) and TowerGroup showed consumer electronic bill payment service providers processed more than 400 million Internet-initiated consumer bill payments in 2001. That’s nearly four times the estimated volume of 113 million items, worth $26.9 billion, that were processed in 1996, according to the CEBP’s first survey. This year’s survey also showed that the average bill payment size in 2001 was $300, up from an average of $231 in 1996.

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