Apparently in 2003, for the first time, checks
and cash were used for less than 50% of all consumer in-store payments,
according to 2003/2004
Study of Consumer Payment Preferences sponsored by the
American Bankers Association. They were displaced by card-based payments,
with debit cards being the fastest growing type of payment card.
I think this is a watershed event, yet I
only read about it in a recent
Boston Globe article on layoffs at the Federal Reserve check processing
centers: "Check volume at the Fed has been falling faster in recent years.
In 2003, check volume dropped nearly 5 percent, compared to 2 percent in 2002
and a half percent in 2001. The Fed handles about 40 percent of the nation's
checks; the rest are processed by big banks and private clearinghouses."
What's also intriguing is that the number of
consumer payments has doubled in the past thirty years. Obviously, some of the
growth is due to population growth, but it would be fascinating to know what
caused the doubling: more frequent payments of less value? did the value of
consumer payments double as well (doubtful)? The report on the study did not go
into this statistic.
The study also had interesting statistics on
Internet payments and bill payments (the only two other types of
consumer-to-business or consumer-to-government payments?).