Federal Reserve Study Indicates Strong Trends in Card Use

From 2012 to 2015, use of credit and debit cards for payments increased, accounting for more than two-thirds of all noncash payments in the United States, according to a Federal Reserve study. The data includes prepaid and nonprepaid cards.

The number of domestic core noncash payments totaled an estimated 144 billion, up 5.3% annually from 2012, said the 2016 Federal Reserve Payments Study, which presents 2015 payments data. The total value of the transactions increased 3.4% to nearly $178 trillion over the same period.

Other findings include:
  • Card payments were led by nonprepaid debit card payments, which grew by 12.4 billion, while credit card payments grew by 6.9 billion.
  • Remote card payments, sometimes referred to as card-not-present payments, accounted for 19% of card payments in 2015.
  • General-purpose card payments initiated with a chip-based card increased substantially from 2012, with growth of 230% per year, but this represented only about 2% of total in-person general-purpose card payments in 2015, during the industry effort to introduce chip card technology.
  • General-purpose card fraud attributed to counterfeiting held a greater share of total card fraud in the U.S. in 2015 compared to countries where the chip technology was more completely adopted. 
  • The number of Automated Clearing House payments is estimated to have grown to 23.5 billion in 2015. 
  • Check payments decreased at a rate of 4.4% annually from 2012 to 2015.

Some survey data will be collected on an annual basis rather than every three years, beginning in 2017, to enhance the value of the study, said Mary Kepler, senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, which sponsored the study.

“The data collected for the 2016 study was substantially expanded,” Kepler said. “This reflects an increased desire within the payments industry for additional fraud-related information. Payment industry participation drives the quality of the study’s results. The Federal Reserve appreciates the industry’s response in 2016 and looks forward to working with selected participants for the annual data collection getting underway in the first quarter of 2017.”

– Adam Fusco, editorial associate

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