The ACH Network continues to thrive. Some may look at the ACH Network’s first quarter results this year, jump to conclusions and miss the complex and nuanced story. That story deserves a closer look.
Payment volume on the ACH Network rose 2.2% from Q1 of 2021 to Q1 of 2022. If you don’t consider that a big number, here’s one that certainly is: 154 million. That is the number of new payments that were added to the ACH Network quarter over quarter.
Here’s another big number: $290.3 billion. That’s the total dollar volume of Same Day ACH payments in the first quarter, a jump of 53.3% (which is yet another big number). It was accomplished with just a handful of days in the quarter in which the new $1 million per payment limit was in effect for Same Day ACH. From its launch more than five years ago, to this latest enhancement, payments professionals have seen the value of using Same Day ACH to meet their faster payment needs.
There are other big numbers worth mentioning, including the 20% drop in check conversion volume. There’s also the 15.5% increase in ACH business-to-business (B2B) payments to 1.4 billion payments. These numbers are significant, because they show that the move away from checks is continuing even as the nation looks to return to some pre-pandemic norms. Maybe you’ll eat inside a restaurant or take a plane, but if you’re running an accounts payable/receivable department you’re not going back to writing and receiving checks.
Medical and dental professionals share that sentiment, evidenced by the nearly 9% increase in healthcare claims paid by ACH last quarter. As Hope E. Watson, D.M.D., told Nacha in a recent case study, after the pandemic forced a seven-week closure of her Tennessee practice, electronic claim payments “really helped to get the money back in the bank quicker. That was a blessing.” Stories like that bring a smile to my face and make me proud that the ACH Network is here to serve.
In looking at the data, a major factor to note is that the first quarter of 2022 was in many ways different from the first quarter of 2021. The extraordinary levels of economic assistance in 2021—economic impact payments, expanded jobless benefits and other assistance to business—mostly moved through the ACH Network. The addition of these benefits had a significant positive impact on the ACH Network last year, and their absence will be felt this year.
You can see it in the Direct Deposit volume. While still a healthy 2 billion payments, the expiration of these pandemic-related payments resulted in a 7.8% year-over-year decline in Direct Deposit volume. But also note that from Q1 of 2020—when the pandemic was just beginning—to Q1 of 2021, Direct Deposit increased 17.6%. This quarter’s decline is less than half of that increase. This is likely because the U.S. economy is adding back jobs, resulting in new payroll payments. But the ongoing gap in pre-pandemic and current levels of employment means that the base of payroll Direct Deposit payments might be suppressed for some time.
Still, it bears repeating that the modern ACH Network rose to the challenges of the pandemic and came through with flying colors. In fact, you can rest assured we will be here as a safe, secure, modern payment system for a long time to come.