For first time, on-line card payments outpaced those in-person in 2020, Fed update finds

Wild swings in the use of online/phone card payments, and those made in person, in successive years are outlined in updated results to the Federal Reserve’s payments study, released Wednesday – which also found that the online payments in 2020 exceeded those made in person for the first time.

The updated Federal Reserve Payments Study (FRPS) highlights changes in card payments and increased adoption of innovative payment methods in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, the Fed said.

“For example, the recent data show that the number and value of both in-person and remote (e.g., online, over the phone) card payments grew in 2019, broadly in line with recent trends,” the Fed said in a release. “The year 2020, by contrast, saw an unprecedented decline of 11.7 billion, or almost 13%, in the number of in-person card payments accompanied by a similarly unprecedented surge of 8.7 billion, or almost 24%, in the number of remote card payments.”

The total value of card payments increased once again in 2020, the Fed said, despite the decline in the total number of card payments. The Fed said that suggests consumers consolidated their card spending into fewer, higher-value purchases.

“Reflecting the shift away from in-person card payments toward remote card payments, the total value of remote card payments exceeded that of in-person card payments in 2020 for the first time,” the Fed said. “The increase in remote card payments in 2020 was driven primarily by a surge in e commerce, and quarterly data show that the greatest shift to remote card payments occurred in the second quarter of 2020.”

The pace of adoption of new payment technologies increased in both 2019 and 2020, the Fed said, with the share of in-person card payments initiated with contactless technologies increasing many times over.

“Card payments initiated with digital wallets, which securely store payments information on mobile devices or online, saw similar growth in recent years, including accelerated adoption in the second half of 2020,” the Fed noted.

The Fed also said adoption of person-to-person payments between bank accounts also exhibited growth in 2020 with a surge in first-time use in the second quarter.”

Federal Reserve issues update to Payments Study