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Bill paying US consumers use increasing range of payment systems with mobile on increase AND 20%+ ch

The fifth annual Billing Household Survey, which was carried out by US financial services technology company Fiserv, indicates that:

  • Americans use multiple channels to pay various bills including online payments at bank and company (biller) sites, paper cheques sent via mail, walk-in payments made in person, phone payments and mobile payments made via apps or mobile web browsers
  • three out of four US consumers use at least two bill payment methods each month
  • more than 20 percent of consumers change the ways in which they pay their bills from month to month, for reasons that include availability of funds, payment due date and amount owed
  • there is a direct correlation between how US consumers pay bills and their use of the internet.

Mobile bill payments are growing fast
Payments initiated via a mobile device – such as through an app – still make up a relatively small percentage of bill payments overall, the survey found, but have gained momentum year to year. Eight percent of US online households - representing 8 million total households – have paid at least one monthly bill this way, up from 6 percent in 2011. In addition, 3 percent of infrequent and non-internet users – representing 720,000 total US households – were found to be using mobile bill payment. Growth was most notable among smartphone owners, with mobile bill payments among this group jumping 41 percent during the previous year. In addition, one in five US consumers who own a tablet paid a bill through a bank or biller site using their tablet.

The drivers for mobile bill payment among consumers who have made them were found to include the fact that mobile as a payment option is seen as saving time (50 percent), as well as the fact that the mobile channel offers anytime access (44 percent) and is most convenient when on the go (43 percent). When asked what mobile billing and payment capability, they are most interested in, nearly one in three US respondents indicated they are very interested in viewing and paying bills from their smartphone.

Key differences: online households vs. infrequent internet users

Online bill payment at financial institution and biller websites has become the norm among US online households, with 73 percent of those who access the internet at least once a week now paying at least one bill online each month. These consumers are not only paying bills online, but they are also receiving them there, with 48 percent of US online households receiving at least one electronic bill (e-bill). E-bill usage is also having a positive effect on customer relationships, with 37 percent of consumers who receive e-bills saying it improved their relationship with the company from which they received the bill.

In contrast, infrequent internet users, defined in the survey as those who accessed the internet less than once a week, and non-Internet users, are still reliant on cheques when paying bills. Of this group, 75 percent pay at least one bill via cheque each month.

Other survey findings
The survey also showed that:

  • 30% of survey respondents paid a bill late within the previous year, primarily due to cash flow difficulties. This was up from 28 percent in 2011, but down from 38 percent in 2010. Infrequent and non-Internet users were more likely to report that they paid late because they had trouble keeping track of their bill, with 25 percent saying this was an issue. This group was also three times more likely to incur late fees because they had difficulty tracking bills, and were three times as likely to report that they lost a bill that came in the mail (19 percent versus 6 percent of online households). Only 7 percent of online households said that trouble keeping track of a bill caused a late payment.
  • when paying monthly bills, online households are more likely to use auto-debit (50 percent of online households versus 38 percent of infrequent and non-Internet users), in which a payment is automatically withdrawn from checking or savings account each month.
  • both groups are equally likely to walk in and pay a bill in person at a retail location, such as a department store or mass merchandiser, while infrequent and non-Internet users are significantly more likely than online households to walk in and pay a bill at a convenience store, grocery store or check cashing store. Consumers who pay bills in these locations say they prefer the personal interaction and like that they can receive a receipt as proof of payment.

The key findings from this important window into US consumers's bill paying habits are:

  • Americans use multiple channels to pay their bills including walking in and paying a bill in person at a retail location
  • 20% of bill payers change the way they pay their bills each month
  • there is a direct correlation between Internet usage and bill payment habits
  • use of mobile for bill payment is growing fast but still represents only 8% of payments.

Many companies are going to have to provide multiple channels for bill payment for a long time. Moving to billcollection just by mobile and the Internet is probably going to lose business, attractive bill payment methods is a key differentiator.

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