Noncash Payments Rise 5.3% Over Three Years

A Federal Reserve survey shows debit cards led the way in electronic payment growth between 2012 and 2015, increasing 7.1% by number annually.
Matthew HellerDecember 27, 2016

Americans’ usage of noncash payments continued to increase between 2012 and 2015, driven largely by debit cards, according to the Federal Reserve.

In its latest survey of payment trends, the Fed said the number of noncash payments during the three-year period rose 5.3% annually to 144 billion, while the value increased to nearly $178 trillion in 2015, up about 13% since 2012.

Debit cards accounted for 69.5 billion transactions with a value of $2.56 trillion, up 7.1% annually by number and 6.8% by value, with most of the growth occurring in non-prepaid debit card payments.

ACH credit transfers had the smallest share of payments by number in 2015 (23.5 billion) but the largest share by value ($145.30 trillion). Credit card payments reached 33.8 billion last year with a value of $3.16 trillion.

The decline of check usage continued but at a slower rate than previous studies had shown since 2003. The number of check payments fell to 17.3 billion with a value of $26.83 trillion between 2012 and 2015, down 4.4% and 0.5%, respectively.

The rise of electronic transactions is a relatively recent phenomenon. As the Fed noted, “Just over a decade
ago, checks were the predominant type of noncash payment in the United States, while one by one, starting in 2007, non-prepaid debit card, then credit card, and then ACH payments (with debit transfers and credit transfers combined) overtook checks.”

It’s still early days yet, though, for chip-based cards. The Fed survey shows chip card payments have grown by 230% per year since 2012, but still accounted for only about 2% of total in-person general-purpose card payments in 2015, reflecting the early stages of the roll-out of the anti-fraud technology.