The Federal Reserve Payments Study: 2020 and 2021 Annual Supplements

The 2020 and 2021 annual supplements collected data for 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Key Findings
  • While data from 2019 largely show a continuation of past payment trends, with card and ACH both gaining share at the expense of check, payment behavior changed sharply in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, with ACH gaining substantially as a share of noncash payments by both number and value.
  • The share estimates combined with other information imply that ACH was the only one of the three core payment systems to grow by number in 2020.
  • The total number of card payments declined in 2020, driven by a marked decline of in-person card payments. This is the first annual decline in the number of card payments recorded by the FRPS.
  • As in-person card payments dropped in spring of 2020, remote card payments took up much of the slack; later in the year, in-person card payments recovered somewhat.
  • The pandemic may have helped to spur growth of innovative payment methods, such as in-person contactless card, digital wallet, and P2P payments.
    • First-time use of bank-sponsored P2P payments spiked in the second quarter of 2020, a time of business closures and stay-at-home orders.
    • First-time use of digital wallets was highest in the third quarter, when some restrictions on in-person shopping were lifted. When used with a mobile device, a digital wallet provides a low-touch option for in-person card payments.

The supplemental report covers general-purpose credit, debit, and prepaid cards, ACH transfers, checks, and alternative payments methods.


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Last Update: December 22, 2021