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Fed to Study Check Payments System

Saturday, January 1, 2000

How many checks do Americans write every year? What's the average size of these payments? Are there opportunities to convert checks to electronic payments? The Fed aims to answer such questions about the size and scope of the nation's retail payments system in a study it will conduct in 2001.

Two years ago, the Rivlin Committee evaluated the Fed's role in the payments system. It found that the Fed should continue to provide both check collection and ACH services and actively work with the private sector to increase efficiencies and develop strategies for the next generation of payments.

Building on the committee's work, the Fed will launch the first comprehensive analysis of the country's retail payments system—specifically, check payments—in more than 20 years. A consulting firm will gather information from a sample of U.S. financial institutions to determine the number of checks flowing through the system. The Fed also intends to establish a repeatable data-collection methodology, so this information can be gathered on an ongoing basis.

The results of the study, expected in late 2001, will help the Fed and the industry evaluate current check use and check infrastructure needs. A more complete view of the payments landscape will be explored in later studies, in which the Fed hopes to research consumer attitudes and behaviors and potential barriers toward greater use of electronic payments.