Faster Payments Coming Soon: The Path to Near Real-Time Payments in the U.S.


Are Real-Time Payments Here, Around the Corner, or Coming in the Next Five Years?—It Depends Who You Ask

Mercator Advisory Group research considers opportunities for service vendors and financial institutions in real-time payments in the United States.

Author: Ronald Mazursky
Published on: November 17, 2014


Real-time payments can be found in a dozen or so countries around the world but the need for faster payments is just beginning to recognized in the United States. The U.S. is among a handful of countries now in process of planning of implementing national real-time payments, but confusion remains as to what is meant by “real-time payments” and when “real time” is important.

Mercator Advisory Group’s research report,
Faster Payments Coming Soon: The Path to Near Real-Time Payments in the U.S., explores the current state of real-time payments and the market need expressed by consumers, companies, and banking and payments professionals. Real-time payments are clearly needed in certain scenarios. Real-time funds availability is often needed for emergency insurance claims disbursements, government disbursements and collections, payday loan disbursements, and person-to-person (P2P) payments or funds transfers, among other situations. “Near real-time” payments are acceptable in situations such as corporate disbursements, e-commerce payments, and expedited bill payment. In practical terms, ACH batch mode processing will always be acceptable in some payment scenarios (such as payroll), while in others, funds must be available in real time and consumers are willing to pay extra for the service. Settlement of funds need not occur in real time, however. This research report covers real-time definitions and types, market needs, and the historical development of real-time payments outside the U.S.

“Real-time payments in the U.S. are becoming tangible. With the Federal Reserve ramping up its efforts, FIS PayNet going live in 2014, Dwolla and BBVA Compass partnering up, The Clearing House jumping into the act and claiming a role in real-time payments, and ACI UP Framework providing infrastructure to other real-time payments around the globe, real-time payments in the U.S. is now a stone’s throw away. The key is for the industry to come to a consensus as to where ACH ends and “near real-time” or actual real-time payments begins. We found “real-time” being defined based on two different sets of criteria, with real-time authorization/clearing and then availability of funds being important to consumers and merchants. In reality, real-time movement of funds is not a critical component of the real-time ecosystem,” comments Ron Mazursky, Director, Debit Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group, and author of the research report.

This research report has 21 pages and 7 exhibits.

Organizations mentioned in this research report include
: ACI Worldwide, BBVA Compass, clearXchange, Dwolla, Federal Reserve, FIS Global PayNet, and MCX. 

Members of Mercator Advisory Group’s Debit Advisory Service have access to these reports as well as the upcoming research for the year ahead, presentations, analyst access, and other membership benefits.



Highlights of this research report include:

  • Definition of real-time payments 
  • The market need for real-time payments—what consumers say they prefer and banking and payments industry professionals expect 
  • Summary of market implementation of real-time payments by country 
  • Three developments of real-time payments in the U.S.—Federal Reserve plans, FIS Global PayNet, and the ACI Worldwide UP Framework 
  • A discussion of future developments in real-time payment networks in the U.S.





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