ATLANTA, April 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- For the first time, consumers in Internet-connected households are paying more of their bills online than by paper check, according to a new study conducted by Harris Interactive and the Marketing Workshop.
The 2007 Consumer Bill Payment Survey showed that, for the first time, online bill payments exceeded bill payments made by paper check among online households. Online payments made up 39 percent of the total volume of bill payments among online households, an increase of 4 percent over the previous December 2005 survey. In contrast, the volume of checks sent through the mail fell 4 percent to 34 percent of the overall volume.
The Consumer Bill Payment Survey - the seventh conducted since 2002 and sponsored by CheckFree Corporation (Nasdaq: CKFR) - highlights consumers' growing use of online banking and electronic billing and payment services to help them manage their household finances.
The January 2007 survey polled 2,018 online respondents who were at least partly responsible for household bill payments. Respondents are representative of the estimated 82.5 million
The survey findings include:
-- A growing number of consumers are turning to their computers, rather than their checkbooks, to pay household bills.
-- Paying bills online has become a mainstream activity among
-- Western states, followed by the South, have embraced online bill payment faster than other regions, which may be driven in part by higher broadband penetration rates and online banking use in these regions.
-- Paperless bills appear to be catching on as consumers recognize their convenience, security and environmental benefits.
"The fact that online bill payment has overtaken paper checks shows that people feel secure managing their finances online," said Gwenn Bezard, research director with Aite Group. "Once considered a nice-to-have add-on, online bill payment is now the foundation of the Web banking user experience. I expect further growth in this area due to Generation Y's greater reliance on technology in their everyday lives as they move into early adulthood, and the increasing adoption of electronic bills, especially as the environment becomes a mainstream issue."
West Leads Nation in Online Bill Payment, Followed by the South
Nationwide, consumers paying at least one bill online per month rose to 74 percent, compared to 69 percent of respondents in the previous December 2005 survey. Consumer adoption of online bill payment has more than doubled since January 2002, when only 37 percent of online households reported paying at least one bill online.
The West ranks first in overall adoption of electronic billing and payment, with 78 percent of online households paying their bills online, according to the survey. The South ranks second, with 76 percent. The Northeast ranked third in online bill payment, with 72 percent, and the
Factors helping drive regional differences included higher broadband penetration rates, greater online banking use and technology-savvy populations in the West and South.
In the West, 80 percent of surveyed households receive their Internet service through a broadband connection and 83 percent use online banking to check their account activity or transfer funds. By contrast, the
Consumers in Western states also were more likely to pay bills at online banking sites (42 percent), than those in the South (38 percent), Northeast (37 percent) and
Among the survey's six consumer bill-payer personality segments, there were more E-Savvy Planners living in the West (11 percent) and South (15 percent) than in other regions. This consumer segment enjoys trying the latest technology products and using financial management tools to organize their finances. E-Savvy Planners pay bills online because it's safer than mailing a check, they regularly check their credit reports and are more likely to use online banking (94 percent) and online bill payment (91 percent) services than other consumer segments. For more information on the six types of consumer bill payers, visit http://www.ebillplace.com.
Rising Postal Rates Encouraging Consumers to Switch to Online Bill Payment
American consumers increasingly rely on online bill payment services to save time. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents said, "paying bills online is faster."
But the rising cost of mailing paper checks to pay bills also may be helping fuel the trend. Some 85 percent of consumers surveyed said, "paying bills online saves the paper, stamps and the hassle of paying bills by check."
A first-class stamp cost 37 cents in 2005, compared to the current price of 39 cents. An approved postal rate increase will bring the cost of a first- class stamp to 41 cents on May 14, 2007. In contrast, the vast majority of consumers - 93 percent - reported that they get the online bill payment service for free from their banks or credit unions.
"Electronic bill payment is not only a great way for consumers to manage their cash flow and ensure on-time payments, but it is also an often overlooked way to maintain a tidier, more organized home or home office," said Standolyn Robertson, president-elect of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), and founder of Things in Place, which provides professional organizing services to residents of the Greater Boston area. "By opting to receive electronic bills, rather than paper bills, consumers can reduce or eliminate those stacks of bills near the front door, on the kitchen table or at their desks, and there is no bill to misplace or drop behind the couch. By simply signing up at their local banks or portals, usually for free, consumers can give themselves the gift of time and the peace of mind that comes from organization."
Convenient, Environmentally Friendly E-Bills Poised for Adoption Growth
Paperless billing seems to be catching on as consumers become more aware of the environmental benefits of e-billing. Thirty-nine percent of consumers receiving electronic bills at bank websites said they no longer receive mailed copies of the bills.
Other key findings related to e-bills included:
-- Consumers paying bills at bank websites were more willing to stop receiving paper bills than those paying directly at biller sites.
Eighty-four percent of e-bill users said they were willing to consider shutting off receipt of paper bills through the mail if offered the choice, compared to 69 percent of those paying at biller sites.
-- Fifty-two percent of e-bill users cited "receiving bills in electronic form saves paper and energy, helping our nation's environment" as a major reason they chose to receive e-bills.
-- Overall, the most appealing features of e-bills were convenience, due-date reminders and "assurance that bills are never late."
-- Among the benefits for banks and billing organizations, consumers using e-bills also reported significantly greater satisfaction with their banking and biller relationships and were less likely to switch providers. Some 58 percent of e-bill users claimed they were less likely to switch banks as a result of receiving and paying bills through online banking sites, while 39 percent of e-bill users said they were less likely to switch to a competitor's service.
-- Seventy-two percent of e-bill users said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their online banking experiences, compared to 52 percent for those who didn't use e-bills. More satisfaction also translated into word-of-mouth endorsements. E-bill users were 58 percent more likely to recommend their banks' online bill payment services to family members and friends.
Online Bill Payment Adoption Climbs
The average survey respondent paid 11.5 bills in a typical month, with approximately 39 percent of these, or 4.5 bills, paid online, and 34 percent, or 3.9 bills, paid by paper check.
Consumers who used online banking sites for paying bills reported paying more bills per month and paying far more of them online. These consumers paid 8.2 (63 percent) of their 13 monthly bills online, and just 1.6 (12 percent) by paper check.
The survey also showed growth in consumers' use of online banking sites to pay bills. In the latest survey, 38 percent of survey respondents said they paid at least one bill per month at an online banking site, compared to 33 percent in the December 2005 survey.
An increasing number of online banking users are activating online bill payment services, further fueling EBP adoption. Forty-eight percent of online banking customers pay bills online, compared to 37 percent at the end of 2003.
Those who pay bills at online banking websites reported using more of their banks' financial services overall than non-EBP users, including automatic teller machines, demand deposit accounts and loans. Online bill payment customers also tap into more online banking features such as electronic statements, online account transfers and check imaging services.
Biller Sites Growing Steadily
Meanwhile, consumers' use of biller websites to pay bills continues to grow, though at a slower rate than in the past. Fifty-five percent of 2007 survey respondents made a payment directly at a biller's website, up from 53 percent in the December 2005 survey.
Consumers with household incomes of less than $50,000 were more likely to pay their bills at biller websites, while higher-income groups - particularly those earning more than $100,000 - were more likely to pay their bills at online banking sites.
Consumers cited "faster," "saves paper, stamps and hassle" and "provides more control over payment timing" as the top three benefits of paying bills at online banking sites, according to the survey. Non-users cited "don't know enough" as the leading reason why they don't pay bills at their banks'
websites. Concerns about online security were cited by only 13 percent of respondents, compared to 20 percent in the December 2005 survey.
CheckFree Electronic Commerce Division provides electronic billing and payment services that enable more than 2,000 financial services organizations to achieve their customer acquisition, retention and optimization goals through secure online channels. In fiscal 2006, CheckFree processed 1.13 billion transactions and distributed 184.6 million electronic bills. CheckFree Electronic Commerce solutions include online integrated personal finance management, online account opening, funding and transfer; electronic billing and payment for consumers; electronic invoice presentment, payment and receivables solutions for small business banking customers; mobile payment solutions; flexible Web services technology for electronic billing and payment; and payment fraud detection and prevention.
About CheckFree (http://www.checkfreecorp.com)
Founded in 1981, CheckFree Corporation (Nasdaq: CKFR) provides financial electronic commerce services and products to organizations around the world. CheckFree Electronic Commerce solutions enable thousands of financial services providers and billers to offer the convenience of receiving and paying household bills online, via phone or in person through retail outlets. CheckFree Investment Services provides a broad range of investment management solutions and outsourced services to hundreds of financial services organizations, which manage about $1.7 trillion in assets. CheckFree Software develops, markets and supports payment processing solutions that are used by financial institutions to process more than two-thirds of the 14 billion Automated Clearing House transactions in the United States, and supports reconciliation, exception management, risk management, transaction process management, corporate actions processing, and compliance within thousands of organizations worldwide.
Certain of the Company's statements in this press release are not purely historical, and as such are "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These include statements regarding management's intentions, plans, beliefs, expectations or projections of the future. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including without limitation, the various risks inherent in the Company's business, and other risks and uncertainties detailed from time to time in the Company's periodic reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended June 30, 2006 (filed September 8, 2006), Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2006 (filed November 8, 2006) and Form 10-Q for the quarter ending December 31, 2006 (filed February 8, 2007). One or more of these factors have affected, and could in the future affect the Company's business and financial results in future periods, and could cause actual results to differ materially from plans and projections. There can be no assurance that the forward-looking statements made in this press release will prove to be accurate, and issuance of such forward-looking statements should not be regarded as a representation by the Company, or any other person, that the objectives and plans of the Company will be achieved. All forward-looking statements made in this press release are based on information presently available to management, and the Company assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements.