The future of payments innovation is steadily headed toward cashless interactions that happen almost instantly. According to an analysis by PwC and Strategy, cashless payment volumes are set to increase by more than 80% globally from 2020 to 2025. This means that by 2030 the number of cashless payments will double or even triple the current level across regions.
Despite the uptick in digital payments and the apparent dissatisfaction with card processing fees, many companies consider it the cost of doing business and continue to accept only the “Big Three” payment types—cash, card and check.
Fortunately, transferring funds is becoming much easier and safer for business and consumer payments thanks to payment processing platforms.
Account-to-account (A2A) transfers involve moving funds between bank accounts at financial institutions. ACH transfers and real-time payments are two types of A2A transactions operating on different payment networks in the U.S.
Launched in the 1970s, the ACH Network was the catalyst for faster payments in the U.S. In the first quarter of 2023, the network handled 7.7 billion ACH payments.
Under the ACH (Automated Clearing House) umbrella, bank-to-bank transfers are processed reliably via the ACH Network. With a typical ACH transaction, after a transfer is initiated, funds can take 1-5 days before they are available to the recipient. For those who need faster speeds, Same Day ACH allows a credit to or debit from a bank account to settle within the same business day.
The Clearing House introduced the RTP® network in 2017 to bring real-time payments to the United States, and RTP continues to grow in popularity. In 2022, the RTP network processed 1.8 billion transactions and more than $195 billion. Now, the Federal Reserve is taking on real-time payments with the anticipated release of its instant payment service, FedNow. Both real-time payment networks boast benefits of:
- Fast Settlement: Users’ transactions move at the same fast-paced speed they’re used to from other tech rather than facing multi-day delays.
- Improved Cash Flow: Businesses can improve their cash flow by more easily collecting payments from customers and suppliers, which can be especially helpful for businesses that operate in industries where timely payments are critical, such as e-commerce or the gig economy.
- Improved Liquidity Management: Real-time payments give businesses a more accurate view of their cash flow so they can make better decisions about how to allocate their resources.
- Enhanced Customer Experience: RTP can be a more convenient and efficient way to make payments. For example, users can instantly pay for goods or services online or send money to friends or family members.
Increased Transparency: Transactions can be attached to detailed remittance data using the more complex data standard, which can help businesses track and reconcile payments more easily.
Global adoption of account-to-account payment technology gives countries at all stages of development secure and fast payment solutions. The advantages of offering alternative payments and removing barriers to make them more appealing have led to businesses bringing in seven times more annual revenue.
In today’s market, customers demand quick, effortless, and smooth transactions, and failure to meet their expectations means lost business. Account-to-account payments and, more specifically, real-time payments, have emerged as an incredible opportunity for companies to streamline the customer journey, boost customer satisfaction, and gain a competitive edge.
Each network offers its own advantages, from higher transaction limits to irrevocability of funds. The RTP Network and FedNow Service empower businesses to send and receive payments within seconds, giving payees almost immediate access to the funds.
With the help of APIs, more real-time payments means more real-time data about those payments. Addenda records provide additional context to a payment, which can be helpful for both payers and payees. They can help to ensure that the payment is processed correctly and that the funds are received in a timely manner. For example, an addenda record could be used to specify the purpose of a payment, the date of a transaction or the recipient’s contact information.
Addenda data can also help streamline the payment process. Adding additional data to a payment can make it easier for payers and payees to track the status of a payment and resolve any issues that may arise. For example, an addenda record could include a tracking number for the payment, which could then be used to track the progress of the payment through the clearing system.
With access to the right data, a company can find deeper insights into its finances, identify transaction trends, spot and manage suspicious activity, and discover strategic growth opportunities. This more comprehensive data picture allows businesses to run their operations more efficiently and generate a more manageable cash flow.
APIs are the language that connects today’s account-to-account payments. They reduce technical and operational costs, enabling innovators to focus on their core product or service. Through APIs, innovative businesses can access the global financial system using an intuitive interface and minimal lines of code to communicate instructions.
A 2021 global study by McKinsey found that while banks are making progress in API maturity, 61% of respondents have not yet fully explored opportunities for banking-as-a-service. Payments APIs step into this gap and provide businesses with payment processing options and efficiency they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
Payments APIs help facilitate a better overall experience, making business payment processing more efficient and flexible without each business building the infrastructure from scratch. As a result, businesses can reduce the time it takes to launch a product or service and make more revenue. Now that customers demand near-immediate acknowledgment, payments APIs allow companies to adopt a fast and global approach.
In addition to market agility, payment APIs are future-proofing tools. Every business that wants to grow and continue transacting in the digital world needs to provide fast and secure payment processing. APIs help businesses stay current with the payment landscape as it changes and maximize the interoperability of the global financial system.
The best part about the potential of any innovative technology is putting it in the hands of innovators and seeing what they come up with. By now, the fear of the unknown has faded, and many business leaders are ready to dive into the payments deep end.
These use cases from multiple industries demonstrate the potential with digital payments.
- Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) Use Case: BNPL gives customers more control over their transactions while challenging the role of card networks. After attaching and verifying a bank account, a business can perform balance checks and automate the repayment schedule.
- Insurance Use Case: Instead of manually producing and mailing a paper reimbursement check, insurance companies can automate reimbursements directly to the policyholders’ bank accounts.
- Supply Chain Use Case: Account-to-account disbursements replace the check deposit process, so vendors get paid more promptly.
- Real Estate Use Cases: Earnest money goes from account to account. Digital payments can also ease the process of collecting proceeds from a sale or automating the payments to contractors and insurance agents.
- Healthcare Use Case: Electronic claim payments replace paper checks, lowering administrative costs. Using digital payments also unlocks the option for even faster payment methods.
Whatever your payment processes need for your business to succeed, payment APIs can help.
Businesses ready to adopt real-time payments must remember that they need to overcome customers’ long-standing hesitancy to provide account information. Consumers’ concerns about sharing their information and banks’ siloed processes have contributed to the dominance of other payment methods in the U.S. Businesses need consistent consumer data to offer better products, requiring more trust and account transparency from account holders.
Enter Open Banking.
Open Banking gives data providers and technology companies access to the data once held only by financial institutions—with the user’s permission. Consumers are more aware than ever of the possibilities and the value their data can unlock, and with Open Banking, they can regain control over their data from banks and turn it into usable information.
Worldwide, the number of people using Open Banking-enabled products is forecast to reach 132.2 million by 2024. However, increased access to data naturally raises concerns regarding security and privacy. With real-time payments, businesses must use threat sharing to help manage these concerns. Threat sharing is when data and payment service providers collaborate to check suspicious activity across multiple lists at once. An IP address, email account, or other identifiable information is checked within seconds across a variety of systems, with a verification decision made through automation and sophisticated threat modeling.
Open Banking allows consumers to give their financial institutions and fintech service providers permission to share information. Advanced payment solution providers can provide support by using their information sources to enhance the detection and prevention of fraud.
Businesses need to invest in account-to-account payment technology today. Consumers will become more discerning and demanding about how their data is used, how their payments are made, and the time it takes for a transaction to process. The businesses that provide fast and seamless payment processing options through payments APIs are the ones that will gain the upper hand in the marketplace.
Payments solutions like those offered by Dwolla are speeding up transactions to match our fast-paced digital world. Want to learn more about how your company can enable account-to-account and real-time payment options? Let’s talk.