Customers who have their paychecks deposited electronically are some of the most profitable a bank can have, according to a new study.

The study, commissioned by the National Automated Clearing House Association and conducted by Payment Systems Inc., Tampa, Fla., shows that banks earn a third more interest from those who have paychecks deposited electronically than from other working people.

"In a word, these people are attractive to banks," said Neal Chambliss, a Payment Systems research director. "They're among a bank's most profitable customers."

2,500 Consumers Surveyed

The automated clearing house is a series of electronic payment networks run by regional associations and the Federal Reserve that handle high-volume, low-dollar transactions, such as payroll direct deposits.

The Payment Systems study is based on a survey of more than 2,500 people conducted in the spring of 1991. Payment Systems delivered its analysis of electronic deposit services to the clearing house association last week, said Michael G. Gatti, marketing director at the trade group.

According to Payment Systems, use of electronic deposit services for payroll, Social Security, pension, and dividend disbursements increased 14% from 1987 to 1991. Now these services are used by 45 million households.

The more than 28 million households whose paychecks are electronically deposited are among the most highly educated and affluent in the country. The average family that receives paychecks electronically earns nearly $58,000 a year, 30% more than the average household that doesn't use the service, the study showed.

Households using direct deposit of payroll services also keep, on average, $1,130 more in deposits in their bank than other working households. Additionally, the average user of direct deposit of payroll services owes 45% more on loans and credit cards.

As a result, Payment Systems figures, banks earn nearly $2,500 a year in interest from an average household receiving paychecks electronically, compared to only $1,800 from households that do not.

Additionally, the study indicates that 78% of direct-deposit customers have used automated teller machines, compared to only 53% of nonusers.

Confirming Perceptions

Bank officials said the results coincide with their own perception of these customers.

"We've looked at some statistics that show they generally have a higher balance," said Harold Piotrowski, first vice president of First Federal of Michigan in Detroit.

But the study contradicted a popular notion that users of direct deposit of payroll services are more loyal than nonusers. Instead, the survey indicated equal loyalty, since both groups have banked with their primary bank an average of slightly more than eight years.

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