June 9, 2022

Real-Time Payments

Carla McMorris
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Real-Time Payments offer instant access to funds

As their name implies, real-time payments are initiated and completed almost instantaneously, offering users access to funds 24/7/365. Though some form of RTP has been around for thousands of years through paying for goods or services with physical currency, digital RTP is exploding in usage as consumers expect money to change hands as rapidly as other transactions in their digital lives, and businesses benefit from improved cash-flow management through immediate access to funds.  

What are real-time payments used for?

Real-time payments can be used for B2B and B2C transactions, payroll, and request for pay. Through RTP, more employers can provide immediate payments to gig workers and others who live paycheck-to-paycheck, also known as Earned Wage Access. Many gig workers would even be willing to pay fees to get paid more quickly, according to research from PYMNTS magazine. For companies, the use of RTP can also reduce credit card fees and the need for invoice reconciliation.

Who facilitates real-time payments?

The RTP® network run by The Clearing House is a real-time payments platform available for all federally insured U.S. depository institutions to use for payments. The Clearing House Payments Company LLC is a banking association and payments company that dates to 1853 and is owned by the largest commercial banks. In 2017, The Clearing House launched the RTP network.  

According to the company, it clears and settles nearly $2 trillion in U.S. dollar payments each day, representing half of all commercial ACH and wire volume. RTP providers in other countries include Faster Payments in the UK, UPI in India and PIX in Brazil. RTP solutions are “open-loop,” which allows for inter-bank transfers. 

The Federal Reserve Board in 2019 announced it was developing its own RTP rail. FedNowSM will now launch in 2023 through a phased rollout, according to the Fed. Federal Reserve banks will operate FedNow, which is expected to increase the adoption of RTP by offering competition.

What are the differences between real-time payments, ACH and push to card?

There are several digital payment systems, each with pros and cons. Here is a high-level overview of each and how they compare to RTP:

Next-day ACH: The National Automated Clearing House System, or Nacha, manages the ACH network. Next-day ACH allows for transfers of money the next day. It’s reliable and the least expensive of all payment options, with no transaction limit. 

Same-day ACH: Money arrives the same day it’s sent, assuming it makes the cutoff of 11:00 a.m. PT. Same-day ACH is more expensive than next-day and carries a $100,000 transaction limit.

Push-to-card: Push-to-card payments allow businesses or consumers to access an eligible cardholder’s credit, debit, or prepaid account in minutes. Still, they are not as instantaneous as real-time payments. In addition, there is no transaction limit. 

Real-time payments: Real-time payments allow consumers and businesses to send money that arrives in seconds. Cost is similar to push-to-card, though there is a $100,000 limit.

Are P2P platforms such as Zelle® and Venmo®(1) real-time payment methods?

Though both platforms allow for the quick transfer of money, they are not considered RTP because only the funds held in the wallets of each user are transferred. Thus, moving money from a Venmo or PayPal account to your bank would be an ACH transaction. 

Similarly, credit card transactions are structured loan products paid off by the borrowers each month. Though linked to a user's account, debit payments are not settled in real-time.

How fast are real-time payments growing?

According to Grand View Research, real-time annual payments volume is expected to reach $17.6 billion in 2022 and then grow to $193.1 billion by 2030. (link: Real-Time Payments Market Share Report, 2022-2030 ( RTP growth is driven by the increase in smartphone use, consumer demand for quick payment settlements and increased investment from businesses and government boosting adoption. In addition, the soaring market for digital commerce and the move away from cash and checks sparked by the Covid pandemic is only expected to continue.

How can real-time payments help fintech companies?

Fintechs can use RTP to generate new services and products to consumers and businesses who need instant access to send or receive funds.


Synapse offers a full infrastructure of payment networks to help fintechs align their networks with their business models domestically and around the world. Our Deposit Hub is a feature complete, deposit and payment platform, while our Credit Hub enables you to build various credit product experiences, including: Open Loans, Revolving Loans and One-time Loans.


  1. Zelle® is the registered trademark of Early Warning Services, LLC. Venmo® is the registered trademark of PayPal, Inc. Synapse is not associated with, sponsored by or in any way affiliated with the respective owners of these marks.

Real-Time Payments

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Carla McMorris
June 9, 2022

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