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The Federal Reserve Payments Study 2016


The Federal Reserve Payments Study 2016 (2016 study) is the sixth in a series of triennial studies conducted since 2001 by the Federal Reserve System to estimate aggregate trends in noncash payments in the United States. This brief contains an early look at the use of core payment systems and some new information that provides a breakdown on types of general-purpose payment card fraud. Additional detailed information will be released in 2017 as the results of further analysis become final.1

Estimates presented in this initial data release are based on survey data gathered from depository and financial institutions, general-purpose card networks, and processors and issuers of various private-label payment instruments.2 The 2016 study covers the total number and value of all noncash payments estimated to have been made in 2015 by U.S. consumers and businesses, including for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises, and federal, state, and local government agencies.

Payments included in the study were initiated from accounts domiciled in the United States and typically involved the use of debit cards (including prepaid and non-prepaid cards), credit cards, electronic credit and debit transfers using the automated clearinghouse (ACH) system, or checks.3 Prepaid debit and credit card payments include payments made with both general-purpose cards issued by depository institutions and processed over card networks and private-label cards issued by merchants and processed over proprietary networks. Prepaid debit card payments also include electronic benefit transfer (EBT) payments used to disburse certain federal and state government benefits. This study does not estimate the number and value of cash payments; however, it does provide estimates of activities related to cash payments, such as automated teller machine (ATM) cash withdrawals.

For trend analysis, the 2016 study compares the annual estimates for 2015 with estimates from previous studies. In some cases, data for 2012 or previous survey years reported in the 2013 study are updated to account for new information or to account for changes in survey questions or definitions. Some data in this initial release should be treated as preliminary and subject to revision.4

To help characterize fraud in the payments system with more specificity, the 2016 study collected information on payment fraud reported by fraud type by general-purpose card networks along with information about the rollout of embedded microchips in payment cards that is intended to help combat card fraud.


1. Research in this report is sponsored by the Federal Reserve System. Detailed data are planned to be released in the second quarter of 2017. Separate reports on the overall findings, as well as in-depth analysis on payment fraud, the Check Sample Survey, and the data collection process will be released as available. Starting in 2017, annual update surveys are planned to commence, with an annual update and data release in December 2017 (reporting 2016 data) and in December 2018 (reporting 2017 data). For more information, see the Federal Reserve Payments Study web page at Return to text

2. The Federal Reserve System appreciates the efforts of survey respondents who provided the information summarized in this report. This information enables policymakers, the payments industry, and the public to better understand payment trends and informs strategies to foster further improvements in the payments infrastructure. Return to text

3. Virtual currencies were not included in the study. Payments over wire payment systems, which are typically used for a relatively small number of large-value interbank financial transactions, are not discussed in this report. Return to text

4. The validation of ACH survey data collected from depository institutions and used to estimate the non-network portion of ACH payments (so-called "in-house on-us" payments) could not be completed for this release. Hence, total ACH payments as well as total noncash payment figures that include total ACH payments are preliminary. Return to text

Last update: February 16, 2017

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