Account-to-account payments: What they are and how they’re reshaping the industry

What are account-to-account payments? Dive into the future of finance with the payment methods revolutionizing the industry.

Francesca Portoso Avatar

According to a recent study conducted by Juniper Research, Open Banking payments are projected to contribute $87 billion to Europe’s transaction volume by 2026.

A2A payments, or Account-to-account payments, are fueled by the power of open banking and experiencing some major growth. They are set to become the “new normal” in the financial world.

Currently, A2A payments constitute 13% of all checkouts in Europe, which has steadily risen in recent years. Within Europe, 20 countries participate in the centralised instant SEPA credit transfer (SCT Inst) scheme, which facilitates A2A payments and streamlines Euro bank transfers.

Take a moment to let these mind-boggling statistics sink in. The commercial potential of A2A payments is opening doors to endless possibilities.

Unlocking the full potential of A2A momentum calls for a savvy grasp on this payment method.

Let us dive into the origins and specifics of A2A payments and uncover the secrets of this payment phenomenon.

Account-to-Account (A2A) Payments: From ACH Systems to Streamlined Electronic Transfers

Originating before the internet era, the credit card payment system has transformed into a complex and expensive mechanism with certain regressive aspects, such as the chargeback process. This process automatically holds merchants accountable for subjective disputes that may lack factual basis.

In contrast, newer generations of consumers prefer the simplicity of directly transferring money to merchants, eliminating the need for physical cash. This preference aligns with the purpose of Account-to-Account (A2A) payments.

A2A payments did not just pop up overnight. They came into existence alongside the rise of electronic banking and the birth of interbank networks. Its early beginnings can be traced back to automated clearinghouses (ACH) implementation during the 1970s.

ACH systems were designed to make electronic fund transfers between financial institutions a breeze. They paved the way for the seamless movement of funds between different accounts, but at first, they were mostly focused on those big-time transactions between banks and large corporations.

What are A2A payments?

A2A payments involve the direct electronic transfer of funds from the buyer’s bank account to the seller. Unlike traditional payment methods, A2A payments bypass conventional payment rails and settle immediately into the recipient’s account.

You can initiate A2A payments through online banking platforms, mobile apps, or payment service providers. Forget about credit or debit cards. A2A payments zoom straight from one bank account to another, using special account information to make the magic happen. 

It is all digital, so there is no need to fumble with cash or those ancient paper checks.

A2A transfers encompass a wide range of use cases, such as Peer-to-Peer (P2P), Consumer-to-Business (C2B), Business-to-Consumer (B2C), Business-to-Business (B2B), and Me-to-Me transactions. 

This flexibility provides individuals and businesses with a convenient, secure, and cost-effective method to move money between bank accounts.

There are two primary methods for executing A2A payments: push payments and pull payments. Push payments are initiated by the sender, resembling a typical purchase transaction. 

On the other hand, pull payments are instigated by the recipient and require prior authorisation from the sender, such as for recurring subscription payments and similar scenarios.

Previously, banks possessed the authority to exclude third-party A2A payment providers that undercut their own payment schemes. Open banking regulations have stripped them of this power, ushering in a new era for A2A payments.

These regulations enable third-party providers to establish connections with users’ bank accounts using application programming interfaces (APIs).

Although still gaining momentum, A2A payments have the potential to significantly reshape the market as we currently know it, necessitating preparedness from payment service providers.

But what makes A2A payments so popular?

Benefits of A2A payments

A2A payments make account-to-account transactions equally convenient for both merchants and consumers. Here are a few of the benefits:

More convenience and efficiency than bank transfers and credit cards

A2A payments bring you convenience and efficiency like never before and offer a convenient and efficient alternative to traditional bank transfers and credit card transactions.

With 60% of European Payment Service Providers (PSPs) already participating in the SEPA-INST scheme and all banks and building societies in the UK joining the Faster Payment scheme, A2A transfers via these systems typically arrive in seconds.

This quick availability of funds benefits merchants, especially small businesses, by avoiding the need for costly credit lines or factoring. In contrast, credit card payments and regular ACH transactions can take several days to settle, causing delays in funds reaching the merchant’s account.

Customers who prefer A2A payment systems will be more likely to shop and spend with merchants who accept these payments.

Cost-Effectiveness

Unlike credit and debit card transactions with pesky interchange fees, A2A payments give you a break. A2A payments are like a direct handshake between bank accounts, saving you from interest charges and late fees. It is a win-win for customers and merchants.

Say goodbye to that 3% card transaction fee. With A2A payments, you can skip the expensive payment infrastructure and keep more money in your pocket.

Chargebacks can be a real headache, especially with cards. If you are dealing with fraudulent card usage and the chargeback ratio goes through the roof, you might end up in the high-risk zone.

When merchants face the wrath of chargebacks and cross that 1% ratio, card issuers start raising eyebrows. They might hit you with altered rates or, worst-case scenario, cut off your ability to accept card payments entirely.

Enhanced Security and Transparency

A2A payments usually require Strong Customer Authentication protocols and other reliable protections in the EU and other markets with modern regulatory frameworks.

This dramatically reduces fraud rates compared to payment cards, which often require third-party anti-fraud solutions to be considered secure.

Most A2A payments involve multi-factor authentication, such as one-time passcodes or biometric confirmation. These security measures make payment fraud less likely, providing peace of mind to consumers. In contrast, card payment fraud remains a common threat.

Tackling money laundering in local and international payments presents a significant hurdle due to the need for more transparency often associated with transactions. Identifying the involved parties and tracking the origin of funds can prove challenging, hampering efforts to detect and prevent suspicious activities.

Moreover, varying anti-money laundering (AML) regulations and laws across countries pose additional obstacles for international financial institutions. Complying with multiple regulatory frameworks becomes a complex task that demands careful navigation.

A2A payments offer enhanced security for both merchants and customers by enabling customer authentication for each payment directly within the app. With fewer intermediaries involved in A2A transactions, the risk of fraud is significantly reduced, ensuring greater transactional safety.

For now, A2A payments are much less likely to be fraudulent than credit card payments and are not subject to costly and unbalanced dispute processes.

This means that A2A transactions offer a more secure and reliable payment method for both businesses and consumers.

Furthermore, A2A payments are considerably safer for consumers compared to card payments. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), over 35% of payment fraud victims in 2022 fell prey to criminals through credit or debit cards.

In contrast, only 5% of respondents experienced fraudulent incidents through more modern A2A payment rails, such as Same-Day ACH and RTP. So, whether you are a business owner or a savvy consumer, A2A payments provide a more secure and reliable payment method.

Enhanced User Experience

A2A payments offer convenient options for consumers, allowing them to send money from their preferred devices without remembering or manually entering card details. Direct transfers from bank accounts make the process frictionless and seamless for both customers and businesses.

Moreover, A2A payments enable businesses to expand their reach and attract customers worldwide since nearly everyone has a bank account. The potential for growth and accessibility is immense.

The future of A2A transfers and payments looks promising, offering convenience, streamlined processes, and global reach.

Get ready to embrace this evolving payment landscape.

The future of A2A payments

Exciting news awaits as we eagerly anticipate the launch of a new A2A payment rail by the United States Federal Reserve in 2023. The FedNow service will enable instant money transfers for more organisations and financial institutions.

Additionally, real-time payments are expected to gain popularity among businesses and consumers in the US, driven by the desire for faster payment access expressed by 70% of consumers in Federal Reserve research.

In Europe, recent findings from Token and Open Banking Expo reveal that a majority of consumers (81%) favour A2A payments over cards. These insights highlight the growing preference for secure and efficient payment methods.

The Fintech enabler of A2A payments

Want to enable A2A payments for your organisation? Partner with a payment provider like Zimpler.

At Zimpler, our mission is to simplify transactions, improve cash flow for merchants and enable faster, safer payments for end-users. We are here to revolutionise the world of payments by making it easier and more streamlined.

With our vast network of local and international banks across Europe, Zimpler is actively working to facilitate domestic and international real-time account-to-account payments. This means stronger relationships and real-time payment capabilities for a broader range of merchants.

While your current payment setup may be functional, we offer something different – a solution that unlocks the true potential of your business, freeing up your time and keeping you in complete control.

By utilising open banking APIs, we streamline the payment process by accessing customers’ account information and initiating payments directly from their bank accounts. This means no more hassle, no more manual errors, just saved time and increased efficiency.

Say goodbye to waiting for the money that is rightfully yours. With Zimpler, transactions happen in real-time, eliminating delays and uncertainties.

Our world-class security and compliance measures ensure a safe and trustworthy payment environment. No games, no funny business, just you in complete control over your payments.

Zimpler’s A2A payment solutions seamlessly integrate KYC and AML security checks within the payment process, delivering customers a smooth transaction experience within a secure banking environment. With this payment solution, automated database monitoring guarantees adherence to essential regulations, effectively preventing money laundering.

There is a better way to pay, and it is within your reach. While it may not be rocket science, the impact on your business is astronomical. So why wait?

The information contained in this post is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon for professional advice of any kind. Zimpler does not make any representation or warranty as to the completeness or accuracy of the information, and assumes no liability or responsibility that may result from reliance on such information.