The Government Takes on PayPal and Venmo with Real-Time Payment Service — Which One is Actually Better?

Portland, OR, USA - Jan 5, 2022: Payment apps like PayPal and Venmo are seen on an iPhone on top of Form 1099-k.
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In a move that has been closely watched by financial experts and consumers alike, the Federal Reserve recently rolled out its long-awaited real-time payment system known as FedNow.

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This new system aims to change how businesses and people make transactions. It could make the usual wait times of one to three days for transactions a thing of the past.

Redefining Payments with FedNow

With FedNow, the transfer of funds won’t be an affair that takes days, but instead can be completed within seconds, operating round-the-clock, every day of the year. The service has the potential to ease financial management for consumers, providing them with an option to pay bills just in time to avoid late fees, or for employees to have instant access to their paycheck.

Although it’s open for banks and credit unions to register from day one, it will likely take a few years before a majority of institutions integrate FedNow into their systems and offer real-time payments to customers, as per the Federal Reserve.

For early stages, 35 banks and credit unions, including big names such as JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, BNY Mellon, and Peoples Bank, have taken the leap as “early adopters”. They’ve already tested the system and are potentially ready to facilitate instant payments to their customers. Furthermore, 16 service providers are on board to facilitate payments for smaller banks.

FedNow vs. Traditional Models

Traditionally, check processing, Automated Clearing House (ACH) transactions, debit card processing, and other forms of payments might take a few days to settle as the sender’s and receiver’s banks communicate and verify fund availability. With FedNow, these lags are slated to be eliminated, allowing money to transfer in real time.

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However, to take advantage of the service, both the sender and receiver must be customers of banks that have joined the FedNow network. This represents a significant step in the evolution of banking, one that could have profound implications for both individual and corporate financial management.

FedNow, PayPal, and Venmo – How do They Stack Up?

Popular peer-to-peer payment platforms such as PayPal and Venmo offer instant transfers between accounts within their platforms. Still, they usually require time for funds to move from these apps to a user’s bank account. Furthermore, these services often require users to create separate accounts, a step that’s unnecessary with FedNow since it works directly with users’ existing bank accounts.

While it’s still too early to pass a definitive judgment, FedNow, with its ability to provide instant, direct-to-bank transactions, does appear to hold an edge over PayPal and Venmo for certain types of transactions.

In particular, the FedNow system may prove beneficial for people without these popular apps, such as in an instance where someone who lost their wallet could pay for a taxi using an app linked to their bank account, or a friend across the country could send funds instantly to them or to the cab driver.

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With FedNow, the Federal Reserve is clearly striving to modernize the banking system and provide a public utility to match the capabilities of private sector innovations. While existing services like PayPal and Venmo have led the charge in digital payments, FedNow’s direct integration with banks may offer a higher level of convenience and speed to consumers.

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It will be interesting to see how this financial landscape evolves as more banks adopt FedNow and as the private sector continues to innovate.

Editor's note: This article was produced via automated technology and then fine-tuned and verified for accuracy by a member of GOBankingRates' editorial team.

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