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Take On Payments, a blog sponsored by the Retail Payments Risk Forum of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, is intended to foster dialogue on emerging risks in retail payment systems and enhance collaborative efforts to improve risk detection and mitigation. We encourage your active participation in Take on Payments and look forward to collaborating with you.

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March 23, 2020

Fast Cars and Fast Payments

My son and I recently attended the Daytona 500. As an 11-year-old, he is fascinated with fast cars and speeds that routinely exceed 200 mph. The cars were certainly fast at Daytona International Motor Speedway this year. While he is blown away by the speed of the cars, I remain amazed at the overall safety record of these cars. There were numerous wrecks at this year’s race, but only one driver was seriously injured on the last lap in a wreck that was horrifying to witness. The speed of the cars definitely makes for an exciting event, but at the end of the day, safety is vital. Nobody wants to see a driver injured, and racing organizations have gone to great lengths to make sure safety is the top priority even if it means compromising the speed of cars. Could safety be as important as speed in payments, too?

Having been involved in the payments industry for the past 13 years, faster and safer have always been two (of several) buzz words associated with payments. But faster, being much cooler to discuss, seems to be the focus all too often. (Don’t talk to my son about the safety of cars—he wants to talk speed!) I joke with my colleague about surveys we often come across claiming that an extremely high percentage of people want faster payments. As a standalone question—yes, I can absolutely see that. Faster is better than the status quo or slower, right?

But we rarely get a glimpse into how important faster payments really are and if people actually want them. Are they just giving an obvious answer to a leading question? How would people respond to a question about faster payments when the question includes other attributes such as safety?

In a recent surveyOff-site link, approximately 1,000 respondents from the United States between the ages of 16 and 75 were asked to choose the most critical characteristics of a payment instrument: safety from fraud and theft, privacy protection, ease of use, wide acceptance, and speed. Only 12 percent of them chose speed as one of the top two. Interestingly, respondents chose safety (62 percent) and privacy (37 percent) as the most important characteristics.

Coming home from Daytona, my son and I talked about the race and just how amazing it was to watch in person. I asked him if he would like to see the cars go faster in light of some of the awful crashes that we saw. In his 11-year-old wisdom, he said the cars are probably fast enough because he didn’t like watching that final wreck. While I could debate whether or not payments are fast enough, much like the cars racing in the Daytona 500, safety remains paramount for payment instruments and must remain at the forefront of any discussion on payments.