Nacha Proposes Fee as Part of Faster Payments Plan

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The industry group that sets the rules for the automated clearing house network on Tuesday formally offered its proposal for developing a same-day payments system. It was the latest move in an industrywide push for faster transactions.

Nacha, a Washington-based trade group, issued a request for comment on its plan to make funds available to consumers by the end of a business day, rather than a day later.

"Same-day ACH clearing and settlement is an essential step to move payments faster," Janet Estep, Nacha's president and chief executive, said in a phone interview.

Nacha, also known as the Electronic Payments Association, discussed its idea in March but provided more details on Tuesday. 

Under the proposal, banks would be mandated to upgrade their systems so they could receive same-day payments.

A flat fee of 8.2 cents per transaction would be paid by the originating banks to the receiving financial institutions, to help recover costs related to technology upgrades, Estep said.

"The goal is really to make sure that the value of ubiquity across the network is realized," she said.

The proposed rule also contains an automatic method for adjusting the interbank fee, based on the volume of transactions. As the number of same-day transactions increases, the interbank fee would decrease.

"We wanted to make sure if volume went out higher than originally projected, there would be a natural mechanism for the fee to be reduced," Estep said.

Mandating a faster settlement period would provide a range of benefits for consumers, Estep said, citing industry research by a third-party consultant hired to evaluate costs to the industry.

Benefits could include providing hourly employees more certainty about when their payroll checks will clear; giving consumers access to expedited bill payments; and allowing businesses to more quickly settle their invoices.

Comments are due Feb. 6.

The Nacha announcement comes ahead of a highly anticipated report from the Federal Reserve, which is expected to lay out a multiyear roadmap for a real-time payment system later this month.

That proposal would involve building a faster payment option for a small subset of transactions — approximately 10-12% of all U.S. payments, Dan Gonzalez, a vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said at an industry conference in October.

Estep, Nacha's CEO, emphasized that the two approaches—the Fed's real-time payments proposal and Nacha's same-day settlement rule—would work in tandem to speed up consumer payments.

"Same-day ACH has its place with real-time payments in the United States because they are complementary," Estep said, describing her group's proposed rule as "a foundation for innovation."

Additionally, the Clearing House, a New York trade group and payment company, announced plans in October to build a real-time system for settling payments.

That announcement was important. The trade group, which represents the nation's biggest banks, was influential in killing a Nacha proposal two years ago to allow same-day payment processing.

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