Retail Payments in Selected Countries: A Comparative Study

Press release  | 
23 September 1999

The report is a continuation of the CPSS's earlier work on the payment and settlement infrastructures that underpin financial markets, including netting systems (on which reports were published in 1989 and 1990), systems for the settlement of securities transactions (reports in 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999), foreign exchange trades (reports in 1993, 1996 and 1998) and real-time gross settlement systems (report in 1997).

One finding of the report is that retail payment instruments are diverse, both within and between the countries studied. The diverse nature of the transaction types, counterparties and payment volumes and values has given rise to several different payment instruments. In addition, the pricing schemes for retail payments can differ substantially across countries and depending on the type of payment instrument and client.

All the countries selected for comparison continue to use cash. However, while all the countries use all the non-cash retail payment instruments to some extent, they fall into one of two groups that rely heavily on a particular class of non-cash instrument: in many European countries and Japan credit transfers are predominantly used for retail payments, while Australia, Canada, the United States and a few European countries depend heavily on cheque payments.

The most significant trends in retail payments common to the selected countries are: the continued primacy of cash (in volume terms) for face-to-face payments, despite a long-standing movement towards non-cash payments; growth in payment cards, primarily for face-to-face payments, and increased use of direct funds transfers, especially direct debit transfers, for remote payments; and substantial changes in the market arrangements for providing and pricing the retail payment instruments and services delivered to end-users.

Retail payment instruments and practices in the selected countries are experiencing an increased pace of experimentation and innovation. Although the most recently emerging payment technology and its specific applications have not as yet been adopted as core payment methods, research, development and market experimentation continue. At the same time more traditional forms of payment instruments, technology and banking arrangements are evolving. Over the long term some of these market developments may well alter traditional payment practices and contribute to increased efficiency and convenience in retail payment systems.

The report is available on the BIS website ( and copies can be obtained from the BIS or the central banks represented in the Working Group from late September.

Notes to editors

1. The Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems (CPSS) serves as a forum for the central banks of the G10 countries to monitor and analyse developments in payment and settlement arrangements and to consider related policy issues. Non-G10 central banks are increasingly involved in the Committee's work. The Chairman of the CPSS is Wendelin Hartmann, member of the Directorate of the Deutsche Bundesbank. The CPSS Secretariat is hosted by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel.

2. A list of CPSS publications as well as the full text of a number of recent reports are available in English on the BIS website.

3. The Chairman of the Working Group that prepared the report was Stefano Lo Faso of the Bank of Italy. The Working Group's members are listed in the report.