US remains a laggard in real-time payments: report


Dive Brief:

  • India towers above other countries in a ranking of global real-time payments adoption, based on total 2022 transactions, with Brazil a distant second, followed by China, according to an ACI Worldwide report published this week. The U.S. ranks 8th, according to a spokesperson for ACI, and fares even worse based on a per capita count, ranking 33rd, the report said.
  • Real-time payments are expected to comprise 27.8% of all electronic payments worldwide by 2027, according to the report. U.S. real-time payments volume is expected to jump to 11.4 billion by 2027 from 2.8 billion last year, according to the report published this week.
  • Real-time payments worldwide will rise to 511.7 billion transactions by 2027, the report predicts. Last year, consumers and businesses worldwide drove a 63.2% year-over-year increase in real-time payments to a record 195 billion real-time transactions, the report said.

Dive Insight:

ACI Worldwide’s report is a reminder of how far behind the U.S. is in real-time payment adoption, despite having the largest economy in the world. The U.S. doesn’t even rank in the top 10 countries with respect to real-time payment transactions per person per month, according to the report.

By comparison, Bahrain, with a population of 1.5 million people, currently ranks second by that count, behind Thailand, and is predicted to rank No. 1 on that basis by 2027, with 83.3 real-time payment transactions per person per month, followed by Brazil and Thailand, per the report. 

“This year’s report highlights how consumer and business adoption of real-time payments accelerates when the conditions are right,” Craig Ramsey, ACI’s global head of real-time payments and banking, said in a release accompanying the report.

Real-time payments were introduced in the U.S. in 2017 by private sector companies controlled by the country’s biggest banks, including the RTP network operated by The Clearing House. Still, such instant payments have been slow to catch on, partly because smaller U.S. banks have been leery of partnering with their larger rivals.

The real-time landscape in the U.S. is expected to change dramatically later this year when the Federal Reserve launches a nationwide real-time payments system called FedNow in July. That upgrade to the U.S. payments system will be the most significant change for making and settling payments in decades.

“The countries at the top of our league table — Bahrain, Brazil and Thailand — are all relatively recent enablers of real-time payments,” Ramsey noted. “Concerted industry collaboration and government mandates, widespread merchant adoption, strong brand recognition for a scheme, and related services, such as digital wallets, have provided the perfect combination for strong growth in these markets.”

Digital wallet adoption, which goes hand-in-hand with the rise of electronic payments, has been more widespread in countries in Asia, according to consumer surveys by ACI, with Thailand, Vietnam and India topping that list.

This report builds upon previous research from ACI Worldwide about the lag in U.S. real-time payments adoption. A 2022 report from the organization found that India, Brazil, China, Thailand and South Korea were outpacing the U.S. in real-time payments adoption. 

ACI Worldwide’s report comes as the company and fintech peer Jack Henry & Associates prepare for the launch of FedNow. Those companies as well as Bridge Community Bank and Star One Credit Union are among the entities planning to be early adopters of FedNow.


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