Driven by a surge in business-to-business and health-care claims payments, transactions on the nation’s automated clearing house network swelled 7.7% year-over-year in the third quarter, according to Nacha, the organization that governs the network. Transactions totaled 7.3 billion, up by 520 million, while dollar volume totaled $18.1 trillion, a 13/8% increase.
Payments between businesses through the ACH came to 1.4 billion in the three months ended Sept. 30, a robust 18.7% rise over the same quarter last year, a time when businesses and consumers were in the throes of managing the impact of the deadly Covid-19 outbreak. “The B2B numbers tell a straightforward story of businesses switching to ACH payments during the pandemic and not looking back,” said Jane Larimer, president and chief executive of Herndon, Va.-based Nacha, in a statement. “They have recognized the benefits and efficiency of using the ACH network rather than paper.”
Unsurprisingly, given the emphasis on medical needs, payments on claims for health care soared to 109.4 million in the latest quarter, a 15.8% rise and the first time this category has exceeded 100 million for a quarter, Nacha says. “We are heartened to see medical facilities, doctors, and dentists increasingly realize the speed, cost savings, and other benefits of having insurers pay claims by ACH, rather than waiting for paper checks in the mail,” Larimer said in her statement. “This is convenient for practices of all sizes, but especially smaller ones with limited staff and resources.”
Faster payments on the network rose sharply, with same-day payments reaching 142.8 million, a 52% jump. The dollar value of this volume totaled $236 billion, rising fully 90%. These dramatic increases are due in part to rules changes at the network. Nacha in March increased operating hours for same-day ACH, while the network now settles transactions four times each day. Another adjustment, which will raise the same-day transaction limit from $100,000 to $1 million, is set to take effect in March 2022.
Two other transaction categories notching double-digit percentage growth are peer-to-peer payments and Internet transfers. Driven by the rising popularity of networks like Zelle, P2P transactions grew 11.5% in the quarter, to 65.8 million. Internet volume totaled 2.2 billion transactions, up 12.4%, reflecting the ongoing popularity of e-commerce among consumers.
In operation since 1974, the ACH system links virtually every bank in the country. It has enjoyed steadily rising volume in recent years as banks, merchants, businesses, and consumers turn to it as an electronic-payment option across a wide variety of transaction categories.