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WASHINGTON - (12/07/04) -- The Federal Reserve reported Mondaythat electronic payment transactions exceeded check payments in theU.S. last year for the first time ever. The number of electronicpayment transactions was 44.5 billion in 2003, compared to 36.7billion for checks. Electronic payments include payments by creditand debit cards and automated clearinghouse transactions. Asrecently as 2000, check transactions topped electronic transactionsby 41.9 billion to 30.6 billion, but since then check usage hasdeclined by an average of 4.3% a year, wile electronic payments hasincreased an average of 13.2% a year, the Fed said. "The balancehas shifted from check writing to electronic payments, and weexpect the trend to continue," said Richard Oliver, vice presidentof the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and product manager for theFed's retail payments. At current growth rates, credit and debitcard transactions will exceed paper checks in 2007, Oliverstated.

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