Comparing Real-Time Payments, ACH Payments, Push-to-Debit Payments and Wire Transfers

The latest payment network to be utilized in the United States, the RTP® (real-time payments) network, lets users send funds between bank accounts within seconds, 24/7/365.

Real-time payments are the convenient and efficient choice for businesses that need fast, final transactions with rich remittance data. We are particularly excited about the RTP® network’s good funds model and technical infrastructure. Combining the two creates a payment solution that’s truly “always on” for a business.

While RTP, ACH, Push-to-Debit and wire payments are all types of account-to-account transfers, each uses separate payment rails and is governed by different entities.

The chart below compares these payment methods.


ACH RTP® Push-to-Debit Wire Transfers
Sent via the ACH Network (either the Federal Reserve Bank or The Clearing House) Sent via the RTP® network Operator, The Clearing House Sent via Visa Direct network Sent via FedWire Funds Service
Rules issued by National Automated Clearing House Association (Nacha) Rules issued by The Clearing House (TCH) Rules issued by Visa Rules Issued by the Federal Reserve
Funds can take anywhere from two hours to one business day. Near real-time availability of funds. Funds available typically within 30 minutes. Funds available within 24 hours.
Traditional business hours Monday-Friday, excluding Federal holidays. 24/7/365 24/7/365 Traditional business hours Monday-Friday, excluding Federal holidays.
Agreed-upon process for correcting erroneous transactions (ACH returns). Funds are irrevocable (although not guaranteed, a request for return of funds may be issued). Agreed-upon process for correcting erroneous transactions (i.e. chargebacks). Funds are irrevocable.
Varies by financial institution, typically $25,000 for ACH. Same Day ACH limits are up to $1 million transaction limit. Current limits of $100,000 with Dwolla. $50,000 transaction limit. Varies by financial institution, typically $50,000.
Collect or Disburse Disbursement Only Disbursement Only Disbursement Only
Credit or debit (push or pull) for collection or disbursement. Credit (Push Only) Credit (Push Only) Credit (Push Only)
Transactions are batched. Transactions clear and settle individually. Transactions clear and settle individually. Transactions clear and settle individually.

The RTP network requires an agreement to participate. Not all financial institutions currently participate, but the list continues to grow. Today, the RTP network’s real-time payment capabilities are accessible to financial institutions that hold 75% of U.S. demand deposit accounts (DDAs). The network currently reaches 61% of all U.S. DDAs.
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Business Benefits of Real-Time Payments

Card Networks: RTP Graphic

Real-Time Payments with Dwolla, powered by Cross River Bank, can be initiated at all hours of the day—no matter if that day falls on a holiday or weekend. RTP transfers with Dwolla are balance-sourced, account-to-account transactions that clear and settle nearly instantaneously.

A disbursement from account to account in real time is the ultimate form of control for a business. RTP improves the cash flow for any business and the remittance data that comes with each transaction provides accounting and finance teams with greater insight into each payment. Goodbye processing times! Hello more liquidity!

RTP API Documentation

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Real-Time Payments Use Cases

Here are few real-time payment use cases:

Additional use cases include insurance companies reimbursing policyholders in real time and real estate platforms facilitating earnest money payments using the RTP network to send earnest payments to agents or home buyers.

And with Dwolla’s RTP API, your business is updated in near real-time as webhook notification events are processed. Webhooks for real-time payments are processed in the same sequence as an ACH transfer, with the primary difference being once the transfer is created, the completion or failure events will be triggered moments later—rather than days.

Specific events include a RTP transfer being created, completing or failing—as well as when a RTP-enabled bank account is enabled or disabled.
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ACH Network: Batches of Account to Account Payments

Faster ACH Payments Graphic

While RTP is the fastest way to disburse funds from a Dwolla Balance, the fastest way to collect funds into the Dwolla Balance is with the ACH Network and Same Day ACH debits.

A highly adopted transfer speed among businesses using ACH payments is Same Day ACH transfer timing. Same Day ACH transactions are growing in popularity, with more than 600 million credit and debit transactions initiated in 2021 alone.

And with the recent increase in Same Day ACH transaction limits from $100,000 to $1 million, businesses can move large sums of money quickly, reliably and affordably using ACH.

For businesses looking to facilitate payments, combining Same Day ACH and real-time payments can streamline getting funds in and out of the Dwolla Network.

Next Day ACH is specific to the Dwolla Platform, which can shorten the time funds are made available in the Dwolla Balance. A Next Day transaction refers to the debit portion of a transaction with Dwolla, when funds are debited from a bank account and sent to the Dwolla Balance.

A standard ACH transaction with Dwolla can take up to five days to complete.
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Card Networks: Push-to-Debit

Card Networks: Push-to-Debit Graphic

Dwolla’s Push-to-Debit product combines the speed of a card transaction with the affordability and control of an account-to-account payment.The key difference between ACH, RTP and push-to-debit is that push-to-debit funds are sent over the card networks.

ACH and RTP go to and from bank accounts. A push-to-debit payment utilizes the receiver’s debit card number. This makes push-to-debit a convenient payment option for business-to-consumer disbursements.

Similar to RTP, this faster payment method supports payouts 24/7/365.

24/7 Disbursements with Push-to-Debit

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Wire Transfers

Wire Transfers Graphic

Wire transfers are a completely separate payment option outside of the ACH or RTP networks.

Wire transfers will need several hours to process, with manual processing happening on both ends of the transaction. Unlike bank transfers, a wire transfer is more costly and is harder to automate.
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Dwolla’s Account to Account Payment Technology

Dwolla powers innovation with sophisticated account-to-account payment solutions. As a payment service provider, a single integration with the Dwolla API can provide access to multiple account-to-account payment types, such as real-time payments and ACH. This advantage gives businesses the flexibility to offer a variety of payment methods to create the ideal user experience. Faster transfer methods are typically viewed as a competitive advantage for businesses.

Payments using the ACH Network move at a different speed compared to payments through the RTP® network, but there’s more to deciding which transaction type to use than just speed.

Dwolla’s financial institution partners are a critical part of the Dwolla Network. They provide the funds transfer services; we provide the technology to automate those transfers.
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Additional Resources on A2A Payment Types

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