Digital bill payments gain steam even as pandemic conditions improve

Trendspotting: A reopening economy and glimmers of normalcy haven’t stopped US consumers from turning to digital payment methods to pay their bills, with 21.4% of US consumers polled by ACI Worldwide in H1 2021 reporting they use digital channels to pay their bills more frequently than before the pandemic. That’s up roughly 30% from H2 2020, suggesting that even as pandemic conditions improve, consumers are still growing more interested in digital bill payment options.

Why it’s worth watching: The bill pay industry—payments for things like rent and utilities—is a massive opportunity for payment firms as it shifts toward digital channels. And companies with credit cards and mobile wallets are primed to take advantage of it:

  • Credit cards were one of the most preferred payment methods for both one-time and recurring bill payments, per ACI’s survey, trailing only checking account deductions in both categories and debit cards in one-time payments. And as digital payment channels replace the ability to use checks or cash, more consumers may turn to credit cards to handle their bills, positioning issuers and card networks to tap into the payments volume opportunity.
  • More than one-quarter (26.7%) of US consumers reported using mobile wallets to pay bills more frequently during the pandemic, which bodes well for their ability to rack up bill pay volume as the industry digitizes. And many US consumers said the convenience of using various wallets to pay bills is “important” or “very important,” with PayPal (43%), Apple Pay and Google Pay (32%), and Venmo (27%) leading the pack, per a PayNearMe report. Consumers have a clear interest in digital wallets, which should mean operators will become a bigger player in bill payments in the years to come.

The bigger picture: Credit card issuers, card networks, and digital wallet operators will likely develop and introduce new solutions to seize the bill payments opportunity. Mastercard and Evolve Bank & Trust have already taken a step in this direction by introducing a cobranded credit card for renters that lets cardholders earn 2x rewards for rent payments—they’ll even mail checks to users’ landlords on their behalf to ensure it’s universally accepted. Launching this card will help Mastercard and Evolve tap into rent payments, and other issuers, card networks, and digital wallets will likely follow suit with products, perks, and capabilities meant to encourage consumers to use them for bill payments.