Emergence of immediate funds transfer as a general-purpose means of payment.
Financial markets (Economic aspects)
Financial markets (Laws, regulations and rules)
Administrative agencies (Laws, regulations and rules)
Administrative agencies (Economic policy)
Summers, Bruce J.
Wells, Kirstin E.
Pub Date:
Name: Economic Perspectives Publisher: Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business; Economics Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ISSN: 1048-115X
Date: Fall, 2011 Source Volume: 35 Source Issue: 3
Event Code: 930 Government regulation; 940 Government regulation (cont); 980 Legal issues & crime; 900 Government expenditures Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Government regulation
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

Accession Number:
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Introduction and summary

In a modern economy, we pay for goods and services and trade in financial markets by transferring money held in accounts with banks. For the better part of the last century in the United States, most noncash payments were made with the paper check, a payment instrument that met most needs for payment services. Since the mid-1990s, use of the paper check has been in decline (Gerdes, 2008), a development that reflects technological advances and innovations by providers of payment services in response to needs for new and different payment instruments. Today, individuals, businesses, and governments can choose from a variety of payment instruments, each of which is designed to meet their specific needs for attributes such as certainty, speed, security, convenience, and cost (Foster et al., 2010). The most advanced means of transferring money between bank accounts is immediate funds transfer OFT), which allows senders to pay receivers electronically in a highly convenient, certain, and secure manner, at low cost with no or minimal delay in the receivers' receipt and use of funds.

Today in the United States, IFT payments made through the banking system are mostly limited to large business transactions, interbank transfers, and specialized financial market transactions involving purchases of securities and the like. In total, these larger payments account for a small proportion of the total number of payments made throughout the economy. There is increasing evidence that the popularity of IFT is growing for everyday use, such as consumer purchases, payments between individuals, and small business accounts payable (Hough et al., 2010). To date, however, most general-purpose IFT payments are made on systems operated by nonbanks, the most familiar being PayPal. (1) The coverage of IFT systems supported by nonbank companies is limited to their closed customer groups, and transfers are made not in bank money but rather in special units of account defined by the nonbanks.

A notable development in a number of countries around the world is the everyday use of IFT for general-purpose payments using money held in accounts at banks. In these countries, banks have invested in applied technologies that allow them to provide low-cost IFT services to the general public, taking advantage of established national clearing and settlement arrangements that link all bank accounts together. As IFT innovators, banks in other countries are working together collectively and in cooperation with public authorities, such as central banks, to provide national clearing and settlement for the new IFT service.

This article examines the emergence of IFT as a general-purpose means of payment in the U.S. and in four other countries. We identify the public policy and business issues that arise when a new means of payment is introduced. We describe the attributes of payment instruments that users find attractive and compare the attribute profiles of different kinds of instruments, including IFT. We examine demand for IFT in the U.S. and present four international case studies of IFT. Finally, we discuss barriers to adoption of IFT in the U.S.

Payment attributes

Payments are made to satisfy personal or commercial obligations between and among individuals, businesses (including nonprofits), and governments. Cash is the most basic and widely used means of payment by individuals in industrialized countries for transactions up to about $25 (Rysman, 2010; Smith, 2010). Apart from small-value payments, however, cash is not a preferred means of payment. (2) Most money is held in transaction accounts at depository institutions. (3) Payment instruments that provide access to this "deposit money," such as checks and debit cards, are the primary means of making payments (See box 1 for discussion of the bank payment business). Payment instruments are generally either credit transfers, whereby a payer (sender) directly authorizes the movement of money, or debit transfers, whereby a sender indirectly authorizes the movement of money via the payee (receiver). Regardless of payment type, the end result is the same; deposit money is transferred from sender to receiver. (4)

In the U.S., various payment instruments, supported by core processing systems in banks and interbank clearing and settlement mechanisms, are used to transfer deposit money. These include paper checks, payment cards, electronic debits and credits, and wire transfers (which, as we discuss later, are a specialized form of IFT). Senders select a payment instrument based on how well its attributes match the purpose of the payment (for example, point-of-sale transaction or trade payment between businesses). Because payments are two-sided transactions, the needs of both the sender and receiver are relevant in selecting the payment method to be used. (5)

The primary attributes considered by senders and receivers when selecting a payment instrument are as follows:

* Certainty--assurance to the sender and receiver that funds are transferred as ordered;

* Speed--timeliness of funds transfer from sender to receiver;

* Security--assurance that payment is protected against fraud and completed as ordered;

* Control--the sender and receiver have good information about and are able to control the timing of payment;

* Universal acceptance--the payment instrument is broadly accepted;

* Versatility--useful for a variety of personal and business transactions, including the ability to transmit remittance information; and

* Low cost and transparent pricing--reasonable cost relative to value; fees are clear to sender and receiver.

Providers of payment services attempt to deliver these attributes in combinations that best meet the needs of the customers they serve. Technology is a principal catalyst leading to improvements in such services as one or more attributes can be strengthened without degrading other attributes.

A comparison of attributes across different payment instruments, including IFT, is shown in table 1, along with some common examples. Here, we discuss the attributes by type of payment instrument as summarized in table 1.

Payment types--Debit transfer

Debit transfers support the movement of money between accounts held with banks. Paper check and direct electronic debit are the most common debit transfer instruments. Historically, the paper check has been the most widely used method for making debit transfers. Paper checks have many attractive attributes, including payer control over the timing of payment and near-universal acceptance by payees. Checks are also very versatile in that they can be used for most personal, commercial, and government payments. Businesses in particular are heavy users of checks due to established back-office processes that link paper-based invoicing and accounts payable systems to check-based payment systems. In general, the need to link remittance information with a payment is a key factor in a business's choice of a payment instrument and, historically, the remittance process has been paper-based.

For individuals, the cost of a check payment is not necessarily transparent because most banks bundle check fees with other transaction account fees. Some banks offer "free checking," which does not reflect the true cost. Businesses and governments are typically charged explicit per-item transaction fees by their banks, which, in combination with back-office processing costs, make checks relatively more expensive than electronic substitutes (Wells, 1996). Despite higher costs, many business users find established payment processes effective and the cost of switching to an electronic workflow, including persuading counterparties to accept electronic payments, prohibitive (AFP, 2010).

Historically, the process of clearing checks, which involves moving the check from sender, to receiver, to receiving bank, to paying bank (possibly through intermediary banks or a central clearinghouse), was labor and capital intensive. Today, checks are converted to digital images for electronic processing once they enter the clearing process. This may happen at a merchant location, even as early as the merchant's point of sale. (6) Even though most checks are cleared electronically, funds movement is still a relatively slow process. Depending upon when checks are entered into the collection process by the receiving bank, provisional credit is available to a receiver either the same day or the next day, and deposit money is transferred from the sender's bank within one or two days.

Another type of debit transfer is the electronic equivalent of a check, called direct debit. Direct debits are marketed to individuals as "autopay" or "direct bill." This instrument allows individuals to make payments directly from their bank accounts by supplying their bank account and routing number to the payee. The true cost of direct debit is hidden because it is typically free, or bundled with account service fees. Direct debits are used primarily to pay bills and, more recently, for online purchases. Acceptance of direct debit is limited because not all payees offer this option to individual payers.

Businesses are heavy users of direct debits to make and receive trade payments, because fees are lower than for checks and because electronic payments support greater back-office operating efficiency. Direct debits are typically as versatile as checks because remittance information may be included electronically with payments. Yet, acceptance is limited because both the sender and receiver must agree to use electronic payments.

Direct debits are cleared and settled via the automated clearinghouse (ACH) network, to which payees gain access through their account-holding banks. Payment transactions are sent in batch form to a central operator for processing with settlement at pre-scheduled times during the day. Sending and receiving banks subsequently update the accounts of senders and receivers. The ACH was designed as a batch system because checks are processed in batch form, and this processing model persists to this day. Because of batch processing, ACH debit transfers are relatively slow--there is a one-day gap between the time a payment is initiated and the time deposit money is transferred. Thus, direct debits, though electronic, are not necessarily quicker for end-users than check payments.

As shown in table 1, checks and direct debits fall short in terms of certainty, control, and security. Because payees initiate the movement of funds from the accounts of payers, payers are uncertain about the timing of the movement of funds. The lack of certainty and control for payers has a direct bearing on payment fraud, because someone who has obtained bank account and routing information from a stolen check, for example, may be able to initiate an account debit without a payer's knowledge by fraudulent means. Fraudulent payments, once identified by the payer or the payer's bank, may be returned, but returned payments undermine certainty and security.

Credit transfer

Credit transfer is accomplished in a variety of ways, principally as electronic credit and IFT. (7) Electronic credit transfers are used by businesses and governments to make recurring payments to individuals for obligations, such as payroll and social security payments. They are also used for business trade payments. Recurring payments are received by individuals as "direct deposit." Direct deposit is used for nearly all government-to-individual payments, but not all businesses have adopted direct deposit. The cost of direct deposits is not transparent to individuals because they are typically not charged to receive them, whereas business users pay an explicit per-transaction fee.

Direct deposits and some other types of electronic credit transfers are processed on the ACH network. As in the case of debit transfers, ACH credit transfers are relatively slow, with a one- or two-day lag between the time the payment is initiated by the sender and the time deposit money is transferred to the receiver. As shown in table 1, electronic credits offer more certainty, control, and security for senders, who directly authorize the movement of money.

Immediate funds transfer is used today primarily for large-value business and financial market transactions, through bank wire transfer services. Wire transfers constitute a small portion of the overall number of payments and a large portion of the overall value of payments; their daily value exceeds a trillion dollars. Wire transfers are expensive, typically costing about $25 to $35 per transaction, and are thus not widely used by individuals. Wire transfers are not only immediate, they are final. That is, wire transfers are irrevocable and unconditional and offer the highest certainty of any payment type. Wire transfers are accepted by most banks.

Clearing and settlement of wire transfers takes place over one of two specialized systems: Fedwire, which is operated by the Federal Reserve Banks, or the Clearing House Interbank Payment System (CHIPS), which is operated by The Clearing House Payments Company L.L.C. In the case of Fedwire, banks transfer balances directly between accounts they hold with the Federal Reserve Banks. CHIPS is a closed network whose members exchange payments, which are settled by means of continuous multilateral netting. As indicated in table 1, wire transfers are quick, certain, and secure, and accordingly they are relied on in interbank and financial markets worldwide and are often made using real-time gross settlement (RTGS) systems (World Bank Group, 2008). Virtually all RTGS systems, including Fedwire, are operated by central banks, which for these purposes are functioning as universal bankers' banks. Wire transfers involve the transfer of deposit money that banks hold in accounts with central banks (sometimes referred to as "central bank money"). Public oversight authorities have made the use of RTGS a virtual requirement for systemically important payment systems (BIS, 2001).

Much of the innovation in U.S. payment instruments over the past decade has centered on general-purpose IFT. Nonbanks have been at the forefront of this innovation. The approach taken by nonbanks is twofold: 1) offer payment services directly to end-users that substitute for and compete with the services provided by banks; and 2) provide banks with the business processes and technical capabilities that allow them to offer IFT services to their account-holding customers. (8)

Under the first approach, nonbanks directly provide general-purpose IFT services to individuals and small- to medium-sized businesses. A nonbank payment provider must first establish a funding source for IFT payments that are initiated by its customers, as it cannot tap directly into the customers' bank accounts. The nonbank provider would typically do so by setting up an omnibus account with its bank, to which its customers make deposits. The customer funds pooled in the omnibus account are then reflected in ledger accounts set up by the nonbank on its computers that are denominated not in commercial bank money, but in parallel units of value identified with the nonbank provider (for example, PayPal dollars). Collectively, these ledger accounts constitute a closed, proprietary network that supports transfers of value units among the users of the nonbank providers' services. Payments to receivers outside the network are supported, but in this case a conversion back to bank money is required. The conversion back to bank money is accomplished by sending deposits in the omnibus account back through the bank payment network to the bank account of the receiver, which is not part of the nonbank network. The nonbank payment networks rely on modem, applied technologies to support immediate funds transfers, and in-network transfers occur virtually instantaneously. Out-of-network transfers that rely on the banking system may take several days to complete. (9)

Under the second approach, banks use a technology platform supplied by the nonbank company in combination with their own in-house authorization systems to provide IFT services to their account-holding customers. Banks following this approach brand the services as their own. Again, however, the resulting network is closed, and proprietary, connecting accounts at the limited number of banks that use a particular nonbank vendor's platform. So long as a payee and payer hold accounts at banks that use the same nonbank provider's technology, they can transfer funds directly to each other's accounts. (10) Out-of-network transfers are possible, but again the transfer may take several days to be completed.

Debit cards

Debit cards are a unique type of payment. While payments made by debit card are cleared and settled like debit transfers, they offer IFT-type attributes to both cardholders and merchants, as shown in table 1. In particular, debit card payments offer speed, certainty, and control to both parties. Specialized authorization systems instantaneously check, at the point of sale, whether payers are able to fund purchases from their bank accounts. Once a transaction is authorized, merchants have the certainty of knowing that payment will be received. Unlike IFT, however, funds are not transferred from the individual's to the merchant's account until the end of the day at the earliest. Yet, the pre-authorization makes the payment seem immediate to cardholder and merchant. (11)

Debit cards offer limited versatility, as they are used primarily at the merchant point-of-sale, with merchants who have agreed to join a debit card network. The cost of debit cards is not transparent to cardholders (typically transactions are free), and merchants pay ad valorem fees, which are a percentage of the transaction amount. (12) Debit cards are subject to unauthorized use if stolen, and the card networks have security measures in place to limit unauthorized transactions as well as rules on limited liability for merchants. (Credit cards are not taken up directly because, as described in box 2, their principal purpose is to provide credit services.)

IFT innovation--General-purpose payments

The foregoing discussion of payment instruments and their attributes shows that wire transfer and general-purpose IFT offer attractive combinations of attributes compared with other types of payment instruments, especially certainty, speed, control, and versatility. The average price of a wire transfer makes this payment instrument unattractive for general-purpose use, and a primary advantage of IFT is its low price. As we discuss in the next section, evidence of latent demand and revealed preferences for certain combinations of attributes support the view that there is an unmet need for broadly available IFT in the U.S.

Demand for IFT

Latent demand ++ Research conducted by the Federal Reserve System on payment system user preferences provides evidence that users desire a service with the attributes of IFT. In a 2002 survey on the future of retail electronic payments (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2002), respondents appealed for the development of a low-cost way for individuals and businesses to make online real-time funds transfers, (13) Survey participants also noted the need for a new, uniform "deposit directory" of account numbers and account status, or some other means of account verification, as well as a directory to route electronic payments more easily to recipients. Further, in a 2006 survey on barriers to innovation in payments (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, 2006), payment industry respondents indicated that wire transfers would be an effective mechanism for making smaller value payments at an acceptably low price (presumably the price would need to be lower than the typical bank wire transfer fees) and with remittance information easily linked to corporate billing systems. These two surveys reveal a clear interest in IFT, subject to the availability of directory and routing information and responsiveness to specific user requirements, including low cost and improved support for remittance information. (14)

Revealed preferences

Other evidence to support the view that IFT may be broadly desirable in the U.S. is the increased use of payment instruments that offer attributes most closely related to IFT. For example, the use of debit cards, which offer more control, certainty, and speed than other payment instruments, has grown more rapidly than that of any other means of payment for point-of-sale and online purchases by individuals. In 2008, individuals held more debit cards than credit cards and, on average, used debit cards more often than cash, credit cards, or checks individually (Foster et al., 2010). In 2008, $1.00 of every $5.00 was spent with a debit card in the U.S., up from $1.00 of every $14.00 in 2001 (Herbst-Murphy, 2010).

A portion of the increase in debit card usage can be explained as a secular trend of growing familiarity with electronic payments in general. As shown in figure 1, the percentage of noncash payments made by electronic methods has grown in the last ten years, which reflects this trend. Other reasons cited for debit card preference include increased convenience and speed of payment (Rysman, 2009), which make debit cards more attractive than checks. Part of the growth in debit card usage and decline in check usage shown in figure 1 can be attributed to the substitution of debit cards for checks.

Business use of payment instruments with attributes that closely resemble those of IFT has grown as well. In 2010, one of the fastest-growing transactions processed on the ACH network was direct credit for sending bills paid through online banking sites to biller receivers (Digital Transactions, 2010). Direct credits offer advantages over checks and direct debits for bill payment in terms of certainty and security, much like an IFT.


Experience with IFT in other countries provides insights into the potential for this type of payment in the U.S. In the next section, we present four international case studies of the successful introduction of IFT. In each case, IFT has been introduced as a universal or near-universal payment instrument supported by clearing and settlement mechanisms that connect virtually all bank accounts within a given country. Universal support for IFT has been accomplished through industry-wide cooperation, sometimes facilitated and promoted by public authorities.

IFT case studies

As we noted earlier, wire transfer is a standard means of payment worldwide and is most often supported by RTGS systems operated by the central banks. These RTGS systems are capital intensive, benefit from economies of scale, and in most cases are operating well below efficient scale (Allsopp, Summers, and Veale, 2009). The services provided by RTGS systems in at least seven countries have been expanded to general-purpose payments. These countries are China, the Czech Republic, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine.

The banking systems of at least three other countries have created transaction processing infrastructures specifically designed for IFT. These countries are Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom (UK). Consequently, although their implementation approaches may differ somewhat, the banking systems of at least ten countries have taken coordinated steps to provide IFT services. Here, we discuss the cases of Mexico, South Africa, Switzerland, and the UK. (15) These case studies help us to identify several business and public policy considerations that arise when a country seeks to establish a national network to support a new payment instrument. A common consideration is reliance on the national RTGS system to provide finality for IFT payments, either directly by means of transaction processing or indirectly by means of interbank settlement of IFT obligations.


Immediate funds transfer was introduced in Mexico in 2004, with the implementation of a new RTGS system by Banco de Mexico. The new RTGS system, known by the acronym SPEI, takes advantage of new processing technologies that allow continuous upward scaling of transaction processing volumes at low marginal cost, with strong security based on a public key infrastructure (PKI). During the SPEI project, some commercial banks indicated that they considered two credit transfer systems (the other being the Mexican ACH) to be wasteful. Accordingly, Banco de Mexico designed SPEI to support a variety of credit payments on one processing system, providing banks with a choice between using the new RTGS and ACH. Banco de Mexico has promoted the use of IFT through advertisements in the mass media.

The central bank also provides payment services to the Mexican government and had been using its old RTGS for large government disbursements and the ACH for smaller disbursements. It was clear that so long as the Mexican government continued using the ACH for any disbursements, commercial banks would be forced to maintain their ACH systems. In 2008, the government agreed to Banco de Mexico's request to use SPEI for all disbursements. Further, the government decided to centralize its payroll processing and use SPEI for government payrolls by the end of 2009. To support government payments, Banco de Mexico instituted an earlier opening time for SPEI in order to allow commercial banks to maintain their established processing schedules. The government and banks use the straight-through processing capabilities that SPEI offers, with the expectation that both efficiency and service levels will increase throughout the payment system. (16) Most SPEI payments take less than a couple of minutes to reach the beneficiary's accounts. By law, all SPEI payments are final, regardless of their size or the beneficiary. Payments are final as soon as the beneficiary's bank receives a settlement notice.

Mexican commercial banks offer their customers IFT payment services mainly online. The payer must provide the bank routing and account numbers for the payee. One-off payments are therefore difficult to make because of the information that is needed on the payer side. Point-of-sale transactions are not currently supported, in part because of stringent security requirements established by the Mexican Banking Commission. Small mobile payments are, however, now being supported by new regulations and by a security agreement between banks and the commission.

Banks follow a variety of practices for pricing IFT payments. Large banks charge per-transaction fees of up to $0.35 or bundle credit transfer services with their Internet banking offerings for a fixed fee. The typical fixed fee for Interact banking service in Mexico is around $2.50. Prices for over-the-counter payments usually are higher than for Interact banking transactions. Some banks charge about half as much for ACH credit transfers as for real-time credit transfers, whereas other banks charge the same for both payment services.

South Africa

The introduction of IFT services for use by the general public in South Africa is a direct result of a recent initiative by commercial banks. The South African payment system has supported a number of general-purpose payment options, including the paper check, the check card (a means of initiating a credit transfer from a checking account at the point of sale, upon authorization, and usually available only to high-net-worth customers), debit and credit cards, and ACH-type electronic funds transfer (EFT) debit and credit payments. Access to check payments would take from one to seven days; and EFT and Internet payments would take on average one day for the transfer of funds intrabank and three days for the transfer of funds interbank.

Commercial banks in South Africa identified the need for a payment instrument that would give the general public the ability to transfer funds quickly and in a manner that made funds available to the payee immediately. Seven banks began collaborating in 2005 to develop a new clearing and settlement mechanism called Real-Time Clearing (RTC), in cooperation with the South African Reserve Bank, and the capability was implemented in March 2007. The banks provide services via Internet banking for consumers, online initiation through corporate banking solutions for businesses; and offline, over-the-counter initiation at a bank branch or by telephone. In each of these cases, the payer must follow an authentication procedure and provide routing information (bank and account number) for the payment. While no point-of-sale facilities are currently available, mobile services over cell phones are supported; and in theory, a merchant could be paid by mobile IFT, although no confirming message would be sent to the payee.

Immediate funds transfer payments made by the RTC method are governed by rules established by the Payment Clearing House (PCH), which banks are bound to in bilateral agreements. In addition to rulemaking, the PCH functions as the system operator. It clears RTC payment instructions and provides the interface to the South African Reserve Bank RTGS system, known by the acronym SAMOS, which clears and settles the interbank obligations arising from RTC. Once an RTC payment instruction is cleared by the PCH, the receiving bank credits the beneficiary's account within 60 seconds. The interbank RTC clearing and settlement obligations built up in the PCH are sent to SAMOS on the hour every hour during the business day, which significantly reduces the risks associated with RTC payments.

Banks charge higher prices for IFT than for other Internet banking and mobile payments. Pricing has two parts, a per-transaction fee and a charge based on the amount transacted for purchases, with a cap on the maximum total cost of the payment. At about $1.00, IFT per-transaction fees are about three times the per-transaction fees for regular Internet and mobile payments. The charge based on the transaction amount is the same across all three types of payments at approximately $0.07 per $1.00. Finally, the cap on the total price per payment is $5.00 for IFT payments, compared with $1.40 for regular Internet and mobile payments. It should be noted that IFT is differentiated from the pure RTGS wire transfers, not only in terms of operational process and timing (up to a one-hour delay for IFT compared with real-time for RTGS) but also in pricing. In the event that a bank client requests RTGS as the payment method, an even higher premium is charged.


Credit transfers have a long history in Switzerland, where the postal service has offered giro payments using a national standard format for over 100 years. (The credit transfer format known as Einzahlungsschein [credit slip] dates to 1906 and prevails to this day in a comparable form.) Traditionally, a credit slip has been used to initiate recurring and one-off payments, either over-the-counter at the post office or bank or, more recently, through the mail. The payee company would send a credit slip to the payer with pertinent information filled out, including bank/post and personal address; account number; and, if relevant, a reference number to assist the payee company in processing the payment. For payment purposes, account details are typically not perceived as confidential information by Swiss consumers and companies and are provided on a need-to-know basis to facilitate payments.

Today, IFT is available to businesses and individuals as an extension of the traditional credit slip. In addition to the traditional paper method, IFT is available through Internet banking and ATMs. (17) To illustrate the payer experience with IFT, imagine a computer terminal securely connected to a bank or PostFinance (the Swiss Post's financial institution) website. The payer clicks on "making payments" and receives a menu of choices among different types of credit slips, for example, payments to accounts at the same bank, at a different bank, payments with or without reference numbers, and so on. When it is selected, a digital credit slip opens and the payer fills out the necessary fields using the information received from the payee company. To reduce manual intervention, electronic payment-slip readers can be used. When the payer completes the instructions, the "electronic credit slip" is immediately verified by the system online and, assuming it is complete and correct, delivered to the bank for processing. The payer would typically not be aware of the particular infrastructure used to settle payments.

Credit transfers are typically settled through the Swiss RTGS system, called Swiss Interbank Clearing (SIC). This system is overseen by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) and operated by SIX Interbank Clearing Ltd. on behalf of the SNB. Swiss Interbank Clearing is owned by the Swiss commercial banks and PostFinance. General-purpose credit transfers have been more widely settled in SIC since PostFinance became a participant in 2001. The extension of SIC services beyond traditional large-value transfers is a cooperative development involving the commercial banks, PostFinance, and the central bank, and reflects their collective interest in supporting more efficient credit transfers, in this case making greater use of SIC and avoiding duplicative infrastructure for processing small-value payments. In this way, the banking system benefits from economies of scale in operations and pooling of liquidity. In addition, standards are followed to facilitate efficient processing (for example, increasing use of the international bank account number or IBAN) for routing information.

Pricing of IFT payments in Switzerland depends on the bank providing the service and the customer segment being served. Banks often include consumer payments as a component part of their bundled account service packages. Charges for account service packages depend on the balance that is maintained. Domestic payments would typically not carry a per-transaction charge. An exception would be paper payments that require manual processing steps for the banks or PostFinance. These payments would typically carry a surcharge as an incentive for the customer to use online banking.

United Kingdom

Faster Payments is a new IFT service in the UK that makes near-real-time and irrevocable credit transfers available to all bank customers at nonpremium prices. Introduced in May 2008, Faster Payments is available across the banking industry and is supported by common rules and a shared processing infrastructure. Faster Payments is a voluntary initiative of the banking industry, agreed to by the Payment System Task Force, which was organized and chaired by the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The OFT organized the task force in response to a mandate from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The official mandate was reinforced by the threat of government-sponsored legislation to remedy perceived inefficiencies in the payment system, resulting from insufficient competition and overly slow cooperation among banks. Of principal concern to the government was a three-day delay in the interbank clearing of electronic payments.

The Payment System Task Force told the payments industry to devise a same-day service. The industry's response was to propose a near-real-time service, delivered through a special purpose infrastructure designed and operated by VocaLink. The company that is responsible for the Faster Payments Service (a name that is acquiring a brand identity for purposes of marketing the service to the public) is the CHAPS Clearing Company. The company provides two main services: CHAPS Sterling for systemically important payments and Faster Payments for time-dependent payments.

The 13 banks that originally agreed to develop the service now originate Faster Payments on behalf of their customers, and approximately 68 credit institutions, representing an estimated 90 percent of all transaction accounts in the UK, receive such payments. Membership in the Faster Payments Service is open to all credit institutions that have settlement accounts with the Bank of England and can connect their networks to the payment system infrastructure continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Indirect access is also permitted, whereby an institution offers the Faster Payments Service and settles through a member.

Customers can originate Faster Payments through their banks either by phone or Internet connection 24 hours a day, seven days a week; it is estimated that approximately two-thirds of all UK phone and Interact payments are now made by this method. Support for mobile Faster Payments is an important component of the UK's payment system strategy; it is seen by some as a viable alternative to reliance on the paper check (VocaLink and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2009). One-off payments are received by the beneficiary usually within minutes, but always within two hours. These one-off payments can be ordered on the payment date or submitted as forward-dated payments to be made on designated days in the future. Standing order payments are also possible, although these will be processed for same-day settlement and then only on bank working days. A direct corporate access feature has recently been added that enables companies with large volumes of payments to submit files directly to the Faster Payments Service infrastructure, provided they are sponsored by a member bank. This new feature is intended to increase the attractiveness of the service for firms that have a large number of expenses to pay, including payrolls, and is analogous to the services provided to corporate users of the ACH system in the UK.

A Faster Payment becomes final at the time the sending bank submits the transaction to the processing system; sending banks manage their risk by authenticating the instruction received from the originator of the payment and checking the customer's account to ensure that the balance is sufficient to fund the payment order. The Faster Payments Service processing system verifies that all of the required details are provided in the proper format and forwards the payment to the receiving bank. The receiving bank verifies that the funds are being directed to a valid account and sends a validation message back to the Faster Payments Service. The receiving bank is then credited with the funds. Confirmations of complete transactions are issued to the sender and receiver.

The prices charged for Faster Payments are a fraction of those charged for traditional CHAPS transfers, which can cost up to $35.00 each. Marketing information published by banks indicates that per transaction prices are below $1.25, ranging downward to about $0.50. Transactions for retail customers are typically free. A size limit for transfers of GBP 100,000 has been set as a risk-management measure; this may be raised or eliminated in the future.


The four case studies are summarized in table 2. For each country, the table identifies the catalyst behind the introduction of the service, the delivery channels through which the banks provide the services to their customers, the back-end system for clearing and settling payments, the routing number scheme, and the prevailing fee structure. The four case studies illustrate two general approaches to interbank IFT processing. In Mexico and Switzerland, the national RTGS systems are relied upon for interbank processing, extending existing RTGS functionality to a broader set of underlying payments. In South Africa and the UK, the banks have created new, shared utilities that handle all of the interbank processing for the individual transactions and, in turn, rely on the national RTGS for final interbank settlement of netted IFT transfers periodically throughout the day.

In two of the four cases (Mexico and the UK), public authorities led in motivating a coordinated response across the banking system. In Mexico, the central bank served as catalyst and did so in part through its operational role as a provider of RTGS services. In the UK, the OFT, which shares responsibility for aspects of payment system oversight with the central bank, provided the motivation as a regulator concerned about the quality of payment services available to the general public. In contrast, in South Africa and Switzerland, banks identified an unmet service need (and opportunity) and took the lead, enlisting the central bank to provide support where necessary.

Table 2 highlights the areas where banks cooperate and compete in the provision of IFT services. Cooperation in planning is necessary to support nationwide services. In South Africa and the UK, the operational cooperation extends to governance over creation and enforcement of the rules that apply to the IFT network, as well as sharing in the investment and ongoing operating costs for the interbank processing system. With regard to routing of payments, note that only in Switzerland has the banking system adopted a standard routing number scheme, which facilitates processing for all parties to transactions and, further, makes it easier for senders and receivers of payments to manage the exchange of bank and account number information that is needed to route the transactions efficiently and accurately. As we describe later (in note 18), in the UK the banking clearinghouse provides bank routing information directly to the public.

The last column in the table summarizes the price structures and prices that apply to general-purpose IFT. In each case except South Africa, the price structure is essentially "cost-plus," that is, fees are based directly on the cost of production plus a markup reflecting service value and profit. In the case of South Africa, the banks not only charge per-transaction fees, but also an ad valorem fee component related to the value of the transaction; this is similar to payment card price structures. The two approaches to pricing highlight an important two-part public policy question concerning the optimal way to price payment network services when credit risk is mitigated through the use of the immediate funds transfer model. First, is par clearing (receipt of the amount designated in the payment without deductions) a desirable goal? Second, can and should prices charged to end-users be based on production costs?

Issues with IFT implementation

What are the business and public policy issues that would need to be considered prior to the national introduction of IFT as a general-purpose means of payment in the U.S.? Three primary issues in addition to pricing are network reach, payment routing, and governance. Each of these issues has practical implications for the feasibility of IFT as a new payment service and each is important from a public policy perspective.

Network reach

IFT services are now available in the U.S., but are limited to closed proprietary networks. The process of clearing and settlement for these proprietary networks works efficiently only for the members who use a particular service provider's technology. In the case of a transfer destined for a receiver who is not a member of the proprietary network, the transaction must be routed through a bank payment system, such as ACH, using the national banking network. From a public policy perspective, the emergence of multiple, incompatible, and proprietary payment networks is not an efficient or effective way to provide IFT services.

A national clearing and settlement mechanism, however, does not guarantee that the payment network supporting an instrument such as IFT will connect all bank deposit accounts. As illustrated by the case studies, bankers may not be required to provide the service to their customers by regulation or by the terms of their clearinghouse memberships. An obvious practical problem with voluntary network participation, well illustrated in the case of Faster Payments in the UK, is that senders need to know whether their intended receivers hold accounts at a bank that can receive IFT transfers. A national directory sponsored by the UK clearinghouse is available online to help senders get this information as efficiently as possible. (18)

While not the subject of this article, the chartering and regulatory status of new, nonbank suppliers of payment services also has a bearing on the network reach issue. The innovators should not be prohibited from joining and helping stimulate improvements in the banking payment network by offering payment accounts, so long as they can meet basic tests of soundness and reliability, as do regular banks. As members of banking clearinghouses and associations, the nonbank innovators would contribute to the bank payment network's expansion. Moreover, to the extent that they innovate through the use of "disruptive technologies," these nonbank companies would stimulate technological innovation in services such as IFT. The U.S. financial regulatory authorities should consider how payment innovation can be encouraged by allowing nonbank firms to offer deposit accounts on terms that are reasonable and prudent. (19)

Payment routing

The principal operational advantage of payments such as checks and electronic direct debits is that they provide routing information that the payer would otherwise have to request. On a paper check, for example, the payer's bank routing number and account number are printed in magnetic ink at the bottom of the check. Thus, the payment instruction automatically contains the data needed by the payee's bank to present the instrument for payment. Routing information is provided with debit card payment instructions as well. For electronic credits and IFT, the payer needs to obtain payee routing information and provide that information to its bank. Acquisition of this information adds complexity and cost, especially for transactions between two parties that are not well known to one another.

Account numbers are sometimes considered to be part of one's "transactional identity," which is sensitive information that should be protected. Because of this concern, receivers may be reluctant to give their account number to a payer for an IFT payment. Such concerns, however, should be reduced by the IFT payment flow and authorization model. First, IFT results in money deposited to the receiver's account, not withdrawn from it. Second, bank controls are designed to restrict the power to initiate transfers of funds to properly authenticated parties. Thus, there is limited opportunity for anyone to fraudulently order an IFT based on knowledge of an account number and routing number.

As mentioned, paper checks contain complete routing information that is in plain view to anyone handling the check. This is prima facie evidence that routing information is not unduly sensitive. It is not considered so in the countries examined in connection with the four case studies. Further, it is notable that the IFT payment services provided by nonbanks often rely on widely known and used "addresses" for routing and information exchange over networks, including telephone numbers and email addresses. The new approaches to routing appear to point to the serviceability of highly public addresses for transferring financial information, including funds transfers, in a well-controlled environment with strong information security protections.

A somewhat broader issue that arises when considering routing of payments and the use of account numbers is that of standardization and portability of financial addresses. If bank account numbers are not standardized across the banking system and are not portable, bank numbers change whenever an account holder changes banks. Switching banks becomes more complex because all established payment relationships must be updated with new account information. Progressive banking practice and good public policy call for both standardization and portability of bank account numbers, both to increase the efficiency of the payment system and to increase competition among banks by making it harder to lock in customer relationships through high switching costs. This is not an unreasonable expectation in an information-intensive industry like banking. Public policy that is concerned with the efficiency and competitiveness of payment services could be informed by practices and expectations in other information-intensive industries, for example, telecommunications. (20)

Payment system governance

Each of the four case studies discussed in this article provides an example of payment system innovation coordinated at the national level. The catalyst may be from the public sector (central bank or other governmental authority, such as the UK's Office of Fair Trading) or the private sector (groups of banks), but in each case IFT innovation proved successful due to a national governance approach. In addition, the governance approach followed in the four countries recognizes the boundary between cooperation and competition among banks.

This type of national, coordinated approach would be difficult to achieve in the U.S. in light of its highly decentralized payment system management, which is reflected in part by the absence of a truly national clearinghouse. Currently, multiple publicly and privately operated payment systems operate in parallel in a competitive environment. Sweeping national change in the U.S. payment system in this century so far has come about through legislation--the 2003 passage of the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, which facilitated electronic check clearing; and the 2010 Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which mandated limits on fees that banks charge merchants for debit card transactions. Without an explicit legislative mandate or some other form of encouragement from the government, it is unlikely that banks in the U.S. will find a cooperative basis for IFT innovation. In addition, because IFT may disrupt banks' revenues from high-priced wire transfer services, coordination and cooperation may not be readily forthcoming. Further, unless IFT clearing and settlement relies on existing mechanisms (as in the cases of Mexico and Switzerland), a national IFT system may have high start-up costs that the industry might be unwilling to bear. Overall, the complexity involved with implementing a national IFT solution may be unworkable within the existing U.S. banking structure.


General-purpose IFT is a means of payment that offers attractive combinations of attributes to both senders and receivers, such as certainty, speed, control, and versatility, all at relatively low cost. There is evidence of strong latent demand for IFT in the U.S. by individuals, businesses, and governments, but to date this demand is being met only to a limited extent and principally by nonbank providers of payment services. To satisfy the demand for IFT, it will be necessary to provide access to money held in banks by linking all bank deposit accounts through an immediate if not real-time clearing and settlement system.

Within the last few years, IFT has become a fully functional nationwide means of payment in a number of countries, including four that we have examined in detail in this article. International experience with IFT shows that technology is a necessary but not sufficient condition for innovation in payments and that enabling real-time and universal access to deposit accounts at banks is the key to meeting the public's needs for more certain, faster, and universal payment services. Perhaps the most critical enabling factor is strong sponsorship by a national body with the responsibility and motivation to stimulate continuous improvement in the national payment system. This body might be a consortium of private banks collaborating through a national payment association, a public authority such as the central bank, or a public-private partnership. It is not clear that such sponsorship can be readily found in the U.S., at least not at the present time, because there is no national body that takes responsibility for the development of the national payment system. As a consequence, IFT and other national payment innovations are likely to progress in a halting and incomplete manner and at a pace that lags innovation that is observable in other countries, such as those examined in this article.


Two basic payment models frame the classification of all types of payment transactions. These are 1) credit transfers and 2) debit transfers. The end result of these transfers is the same: Deposit money is transferred from payer to payee. The process that results in the transfer of deposit money, however, is quite different. In a credit transfer, deposit money is moved directly from a payer's or sender's transaction account to a payee's or receiver's account. A credit transfer is sometimes referred to as a "credit push" payment, meaning that money is delivered directly to the receiver based on instructions made by the sender to the sender's bank. In a debit transfer, deposit money is moved in a less direct manner and requires the receiver to request a transfer from the sender's bank, based on authorizing instructions provided by the sender. A debit transfer is sometimes referred to as a "debit pull" payment, meaning that the receiver must present the sender's instruction to the sender's bank before deposit money is transferred. Operationally, payment transactions are more complex than described in the foregoing paragraph. For purposes of modeling, a generic payment transaction can be visualized as consisting of two discrete information flows involving "instructions" and "funds movement," which are illustrated in figures A1 and A2 for credit and debit payments, respectively. (1) Instructions are shown as solid lines and funds movements are shown as dotted lines. For credit transfers, as shown in figure A1, a sender instructs his/her bank to deliver funds to a designated receiver. (2) These instructions result in a debit to the sender's transaction account and initiate movement of funds from the sender's bank to the receiver's bank and credit to the receiver's account. For debit transfers, as shown in figure A2, a sender does not directly instruct his/her bank to transfer funds. Instead, payment instructions follow a chain from sender to receiver, then from the receiver to his/her bank, and finally from the receiver's bank to the sender's bank to transfer money from the sender's account. (3) These instructions result in a credit to the receiver's account; however, because the receiver's bank is uncertain at the time instructions are delivered to the sender's bank whether the sender's bank will honor the instructions, final credit to the receiver's account is delayed by the time it takes the sending bank to determine whether it will honor the payment. Accordingly, funds transferred by the debit transfer method are typically made available to receivers as provisional funds and are subject to reversal. If the sender's bank honors the instructions, then the sender's account is debited and provisional funds become final.



(1) Depending on the payment method and the system used, funds movement may also include data related to the payment, such as invoice or remittance information and reference numbers.

(2) The discussion in this paragraph closely follows Geva (2009).

(3) For both credit and debit transfers, one or more intermediary banks may stand between a sender's bank and a receiver's bank to execute the transfer of deposit money. In addition, senders in both models may use agents, such as a payroll processing company, to initiate instructions on their behalf.


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(1) See https://www.paypal.com.

(2) The exception to the norm is Japan, where cash is more widely used than in any other industrialized country due to factors such as relatively low crime rates, effective anti-counterfeiting measures, and low-cost nationwide ATM networks (BIS, 2003).

(3) Depository institutions include banks, thrifts, and credit unions. In this article, the term "bank" means all depository institutions.

(4) A full discussion of credit transfers and debit transfers is provided in the appendix.

(5) Two-sided markets require the participation of two separate parties in order to succeed (Rochet and Tirole, 2003). A sender and receiver of a payment must use the same payment system in order to exchange monetary value.

(6) Some checks are converted to electronic format at the point of acceptance and are cleared through the automated clearinghouse (ACH) network, as described later.

(7) A cash payment is also a credit transfer.

(8) As noted in the introduction, the most prominent example of the first approach is PayPal. Examples of the second approach include CashEdge (www.cashedge.com/) and Obopay (https://www.obopay.com/consumer/welcome.shtml).

(9) These closed proprietary networks were first described by Kuttner and McAndrews (2001).

(10) The same description applies to transfers among accounts held at the same bank, called intrabank or "on us" transfers.

(11) Some cardholders are aware of the delay in the transfer of deposit money and "play the float" with these transactions. For those cardholders, debit card transactions are not perceived as immediate.

(12) Debit card cost structure has become controversial to the point that recent banking reform legislation directs the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to regulate merchant fees and includes a provision to allow merchants to offer discounts for customers who pay with cash or check. (Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, [section] 1075).

(13) Respondents included corporations, technology firms, banks, payment processors, and infrastructure providers.

(14) In a joint April 26, 2010, press release, the Federal Reserve System and The Clearing House Payments Company L.L.C. announced plans to implement enhanced message formats to support extended-character business remittance information for U.S. dollar wire transfers on November 11, 2011.

(15) The findings in this section are based on correspondence with central bankers and examination of the public websites of payment services providers, including commercial and central banks and the financial services arm of the post office. The authors acknowledge and are grateful for the assistance provided by Ricardo Medina (Banco de Mexico), Dave Mitchell and Mike Stocks (South African Reserve Bank), Philipp Haenc and Dave Maurer (Swiss National Bank), and Paul Smee (UK Payments Council), none of whom bear any responsibility for the descriptions, analysis, and conclusions presented in this article.

(16) Straight-through processing (STP) is an operational design based on standards that allow for fully automated processing of a payment from its origination by the payer to its receipt by the payee.

(17) Also, mobile payments for small accounts using cell phones have been introduced by PostFinance for payments between PostFinance account holders.

(18) The directory can be found at www.ukpayments.org.uk/sort_code_checker/.

(19) One approach would be to charter so-called "narrow banks" that specialize in payments. This approach has the advantage of encouraging innovation, while at the same time prudently extending the public safety net of deposit insurance to new market entrants (Litan, 1987).

(20) Mobile phone numbers, for example, are portable from one carrier to another.

Bruce J. Summers is a consultant to the Financial Markets Group and Kirstin E. Wells is a business economist in the Financial Markets Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The authors acknowledge and are grateful to the following for their helpful ideas and comments on earlier versions of this paper: Nancy Atkinson, Sujit Chakravorti, Harry Leinonen, Jeff Marquardt, Bruce Parker, Louise Roseman, the participants in a March 16, 2010, seminar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and an anonymous reviewer.

Transaction accounts and the payment line
of business at banks

While considered part of the "payment business,"
bank transaction accounts offered to individuals
and business customers are estimated to account
for only a fraction of banks' total payment business
revenue. Revenue from transactions accounts
is attributable to net interest income earned from
balances on deposit (typically the largest component),
transaction fees, penalty fees, and a variety
of other fees. The payment business also includes
issuing credit cards to consumers, which is the
largest piece of payment business revenue. Other
payment businesses include issuing commercial
cards, card services for merchants, money transfer
services, issuing prepaid cards, and other smaller
business lines (McKinsey & Company, 2009).

The fact that the majority of payment revenue
does not come from transaction accounts, which are
typically considered "core" banking services, can
be explained by banks' ability to generate higher
marginal returns from credit-related services. The
transaction-account payment business has until
recently emphasized "free" account services provided
at very low fees, perhaps even below cost,
as an inducement for customers to build accounts
and grow net interest income.


Credit cards

Credit cards are also commonly used by individuals
at merchant locations, yet credit card transactions
are not debit or credit transfers. Credit cards are a
means of providing access to short-term consumer
finance, whereby merchants receive funds from their
banks at the end of the day but cardholders do not
authorize the transfer of deposit money until they
pay their monthly credit card bill to the bank that
issues them the card. This bill is for the aggregate
amount owed to cover multiple transactions and is
not required to be paid in full. Thus, credit card
transactions, while often considered payment transactions,
do not fall under either the credit transfer
or debit transfer model. The distinction between a
credit card transaction and payment transaction
holds true even though an estimated 40 percent of
cardholders, so-called convenience users, do not rely
on short-term credit and pay their balance in full
each month (Herbst-Murphy, 2010). Convenience
users typically use credit cards for other reasons,
such as garnering reward points or simplifying
their cash management by accumulating payments
over a monthly grace period.


Attributes and examples of payment instruments

Attribute              Check                  Direct debit

Certainty              Provisional            Provisional
                       payment                payment
                       to receiver            to receiver

Speed                  Minimum                Minimum
                       one day                one day

Security               Checks may be          Bank account
                       stolen and/or          and routing
                       forged                 information from
                                              check can be
                                              used to originate
                                              debit transfer

Control of timing      Payer controls         Payer controls
                       instruction but        instruction but
                       cedes control of       cedes control of
                       funds movement         funds movement
                       to payee               to payee

Universal              Yes                    Sender and
acceptance                                    receiver must
                                              agree to use

Versatility            Most types             Bill payments,
                       of payment             business-to-
                       transactions           business trade
                                              payments (with

Low cost and           Not transparent        Not transparent
transparent            to individuals;        to individuals;
pricing                per-transaction        per-transaction
                       fee to businesses      fee to businesses

Clearing &             National check         ACH system
settlement             system

Example                Business accounts      Utility payment

Attribute              Direct credit          Wire transfer

Certainty              Payment                Payment guaranteed
                       guaranteed             to receiver with
                       to receiver            immediate finality

Speed                  Minimum                Real-time
                       one day

Security               Fraud is limited       Fraud is limited
                       because payer          because payer
                       directly sends         directly sends
                       funds from             funds from
                       account                account

Control of timing      Payer controls         Payer controls
                       transaction            transaction

Universal              Sender and             Yes
acceptance             receiver must
                       agree to use

Versatility            Recurring payments,    Financial market
                       business-to-business   transactions (with
                       payments               limited remittance
                       (with remittance       information)

Low cost and           Not transparent        High cost for
transparent            to individuals;        sender and
pricing                per-transaction        receiver
                       fee to businesses      (transaction fee)

Clearing &             ACH system             Accounts held
settlement                                    with Reserve Banks
                                              or CHIPS

Example                Payroll deposit        Purchase and sale
                                              of bank reserves

Attribute              General-purpose        Debit card
                       IFT (a)

Certainty              Payment guaranteed     Payment
                       to receiver            guaranteed
                                              to receiver

Speed                  Within minutes         Real-time
                                              and guarantee;
                                              funds transferred
                                              end-of-day at the

Security               Fraud is limited       Card numbers
                       because payer          may be stolen;
                       directly sends         use of PIN with
                       funds from             certain cards limits
                       account                unauthorized

Control of timing      Payer controls         Payer controls
                       transaction            transaction

Universal              Closed system          Limited by
acceptance             with limited number    merchant
                       of users (b)           acceptance

Versatility            Most types of          Point-of-sale
                       transactions but       (POS) and
                       limited POS            online only

Low cost and           Not transparent        Not transparent
transparent            to individuals;        to individuals;
pricing                ad valorem fee to      ad valorem
                       merchant (PayPal)      fee to merchant

Clearing &             PayPal system          Card networks

Example                Purchase of goods      Grocery payment
                       and services

(a) Information in this column is based on the features of PayPal,
which is the nonbank IFT service most commonly used today by
individuals (Shevlin, Fishman, and Bezard, 2010).

(b) As we discuss in the text, IFT in other countries links all or
most transaction accounts held at banks.


International experience with immediate funds transfer

Country                Catalyst               Channel

Mexico                 Central bank           Online banking,

South Africa           Commercial             Online banking,
                       banks                  mobile, over-the-

Switzerland            Majority of            Online banking,
                       banks and              ATM, over-the-
                       central bank           counter

UK                     Competition            Online banking,
(Faster                authority              mobile, direct
Payments)                                     corporate access

Country                Clearing and           Routing

Mexico                 RTGS (SPEI)            BAN (a)

South Africa           Real-Time              BAN
                       Clearing (RTC)

Switzerland            RTGS (SIC)             BAN, IBAN (b)

UK                     Faster Payments        BAN
(Faster                Service (FPS)

Country                Fee

Mexico                 Fixed per transaction
                       (could be bundled),

South Africa           Fixed per transaction,
                       $1.00 + ad valorem,

Switzerland            Typically bundled with
                       account service fees

UK                     Fixed per transaction,
(Faster                typically free of explicit
Payments)              charges for retail
                       customers, $0.50-$1.25

(a) Bank account number.

(b) International bank account number.
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