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Electronic payments in the US exceed check payments, says Federal Reserve survey

Surveys conducted by the Federal Reserve confirm that electronic payment transactions in the US have exceeded check payments for the first time. The number of electronic payment transactions totalled 44.5 billion in 2003, while the number of checks paid totalled 36.7 billion, according to recent surveys of US depository financial institutions and electronic payments organizations.

Previous research by the Federal Reserve found that the number of checks paid in 2000 was 41.9 billion transactions, compared with 30.6 billion electronic payments. Electronic payments consist of such payment methods as credit cards, debit cards and automated clearinghouse (ACH) transactions, like direct debit.

The decline in the number of checks paid from 41.9 billion transactions to 36.7 billion reflects an annual average rate of decline of 4.3% from 2000 to 2003. As for electronic forms of payment, the increase from 30.6 billion to 44.5 billion reflects an average annual rate of increase of 13.2% for the same period.

"The balance has shifted from check writing to electronic payments, and we expect this trend to continue," said Richard Oliver, senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Federal Reserve Banks' product manager for retail payments.

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