The Potential of Real-time Payments for Ecommerce

Real-time payments are instant transfers of funds by a payor to a payee. The subject is trending and for good reason. The guarantee of instant settlements and immediate access to capital is persuasive, particularly for merchants frustrated by their bank’s coverage of retains and reserves.

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The expression”real time payments” can explain a selection of quick money transfers. The true meaning comprises:

  • The transfer of capital from a payor to a payee in minutes — not minutes, not hours, and certainly not days. It is known as an”immediate settlement.”
  • Unrestricted access from the receiver to the complete amount of the transfer with no reservations, holds, or restrictions on the usage.
  • Irrevocable moves. Once obtained, the funds transferred by means of a real-time payment can’t be called back or rescinded by the sender.

Use Cases

There are five popular applications cases for real time payments.

Real-time settlements for merchants, who would benefit greatly if they could immediately use the funds within their merchant account for, say, buying stock, paying workers, and covering costs. Most accounts take a hold period, which range from one to 14 days, depending on the size of this book, the number of funds, the merchant’s account status, and the sort of business.

Traditionally, merchant accounts aren’t settled in real time because acquiring banks (i.e., merchant account suppliers ) must request and receive authorizations from issuers and other participants in the payments ecosystem. Acquirers also prevent instant access to capital to protect against chargebacks.


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A few merchant account providers now offer some kind of real time settlements to assist smaller, independent companies amid the pandemic. The most prominent is Square’s Instant Payments attribute, allowing merchants to finance citizenship with their Square account balance. But more could be accomplished. The technology exists, and the potential is enormous, but the implementation has been slow.

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Real-time payments for workers, contractors, and freelancers. Merchants aren’t the only ones hurt by slow, cumbersome settlements. Employees, contractors, and freelancers often struggle due to delayed payments. Real-time payments can hasten the procedure. By way of instance, for a small fee, a Lyft driver could use Lyft’s Express Pay to cash his earnings prior to the typical weekly deposit.

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Replacing paper checks. Insurance businesses, governments, and other organizations realize significant cost savings and enhanced customer satisfaction with real time payments rather than the much-maligned paper checks, which can be costly to create, distribute, and process. Fraudsters target paper checks. They are easy to lose and slow to get.

Cross-border payments. Sending and receiving money across international boundaries is inconvenient. It’s typical for an international money transfer to take two weeks or longer to repay — an unconscionable interval given the maturity of the web. Real-time payments may expedite international money transfers without compromising security. Really, the two MoneyGram and Western Union have announced efforts to use Visa Direct (the business’s platform for real time payments) for specific cross-border money transfers.

Peer-to-peer payments are popular as a simple, secure, and cost-effective means to transfer funds from one individual to another without managing checks or money. P2P payments are sometimes (but not necessarily ) a sort of real-time payment. Again, a legitimate real-time payment facilitates instant transfers and immediate and unfettered access to all of the funds. Most P2P apps do move instantly, but not all allow immediate access to the cash.

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Real-time Networks

Several systems have been developed to offer real-time payment capabilities, and many more are on the way. Here’s a review of the most recognizable real-time payment mechanisms.

Visa Direct and Mastercard Send utilize OCTs (“first credit transactions”) within their real time payment networks. OCTs credit funds from a payor’s credit or debit card to a payee’s card. They are similar in concept to a refund wherein a company puts money into a customer’s credit card account. OCTs can be pushed only to a Visa or Mastercard account, to not a bank account.

Businesses, governments, and technology providers are migrating to Visa Direct and Mastercard Send to disburse payments in real time. Funds are transferred to the cardholder in seconds, and the receiver can use those funds immediately.

The RTP Network allows U.S. banks and their clients to move funds to and from accounts in real time. The RTP Network was created by The Clearing House Payments Company, a for-profit joint venture of banks and financial institutions. All participating banks encourage real-time money transfers with instant settlement.

The RTP Network is largely used for B2B payments. Not all banks are members since it entails maintaining huge reserves at a Federal Reserve Bank and investing in technology and employees to support and grow the service. Approximately 56 percent of U.S. checking-account holders are entitled to real-time payments through the RTP Network. Smaller financial institutions have been reluctant to join due to the cost and the desire to stay independent from the colossal competitors that control the community.

FedNow Service. The Federal Reserve recognizes that real time transfers are critical for a wholesome payments ecosystem. Further, the Fed also knows that smaller institutions are reluctant to join the RTP Network, thereby preventing many accounts from participating. The end result is FedNow Service, the Fed’s own real time payments system, which will operate like the RTP Network. Unfortunately, FedNow won’t start until at least 2024.

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Real-time payments have great potential to help merchants. However, there are challenges to overcome before such payments are omnipresent.

  • Safety and privacy protection. As more people access real time payment systems, the threat of security breaches, hacks, and account takeovers (from phishing and social engineering attacks) will grow.
  • Fraud. Since real-time payments are immediate and irrevocable (i.e., they can’t be called back), the networks will need to invent technologies and processes that counteract fraudsters.
  • Seamless integrations. Real-time payment platforms will need to integrate with other business-critical systems like accounting and cloud-based management platforms. It is not good enough to ease real-time payments alone.
  • Regulations. Laws and regulations which prevent money laundering and the illegal use of funds — weapon and drug sales, for example — will have to be upgraded to include real time payments.
  • Fees. It’s hard to say if real time payment fees will rise, fall, or stay constant. However, an individual can make certain there will be costs to keep these systems, and end-users will finally pay.

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