PayPal Inc. remains the dominating force in alternative payments and continues to grow, a survey concluded.

In Auriemma Consulting Group's October online survey of 417 U.S. adults, 90% said they were familiar with or used PayPal. That was up from 78% in a June 2008 survey, said Auriemma, which defines alternative payments as those initiated outside the traditional banking infrastructure.

Ninety percent of survey participants were familiar with or use PayPal, a unit of eBay Inc. That was up from 78% in the June 2008 survey of 500 adults.

About a third of respondents (32%) were aware that they could use Western Union Co. services as a payment method, down from 33% two years earlier, while 29% were aware of eBay's Bill Me Later instant credit option, up from 20%.

Only 21% of respondents knew about Google Inc.'s Google Checkout, but that was up from 10% in 2008.

Of the survey participants aware of PayPal, 76% said they had a PayPal account, up from 55% in June 2008. Only 7% of survey participants said they had a Bill Me Later account, up from 4% two years earlier. Six percent had a Google Checkout account, up from 3%.

Of the respondents who said they had a PayPal account, 90% said they use it at least once a year for personal reasons or to participate in online communities, according to the report, which was released in late November.

PayPal remains the biggest alternative payments player because other options, such as Google Checkout and Bill Me Later, have "not yet managed to grow as much share as PayPal," said Scott Strumello, an analyst at the New York-based Auriemma.

Moreover, in 2008 there were more alternative payment startups, some of which have gone out of business, he said.

PayPal may dominate the alternative payments providers, but it is not impossible for other companies to compete, Strumello said.

"Google is a company with enormous resources. But they are competing more selectively in specific sectors such as the pharmaceutical space," he said. Google "is targeting areas where the company can compete effectively."

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