5 Big Ideas: Making the Case for Instant Payments

In recent years, instant, P2P payments have seen a surge in adoption, emerging as a popular method for consumers to receive funds and make personal transactions and purchases. At the same time, smaller businesses have gravitated toward instant payments because they appreciate the speed, convenience and efficiency that comes from processing payments immediately.

What follows is a quick overview of recent PYMNTS Intelligence data confirming these preferences.

Big Idea No. 1: Workers Want to Get Paid Instantly

Not surprisingly, PYMNTS intelligence data confirms that when people are waiting to get paid, they prefer to get paid immediately. This finding is confirmed by two recent reports. In “Generation Instant: How Freelancers Use Instant Payments to Reduce Financial Hardship,” we found that 84% of those who earn a living doing freelance, contract or consulting work will opt for instant payments if given the option, and nearly half say they would even be willing to pay a fee in exchange for immediate payments. Worth noting: PYMNTS Intelligence also found that 89% of those who have done freelance work say they are very or extremely satisfied when they were paid instantly, which is 10% higher than the satisfaction rate among those who got paid via traditional (non-instant) methods.

In a separate study, PYMNTS Intelligence found that 2 in 5 professional truck drivers now collect their income and earnings via instant payments, and 17% of those who do prefer it over other payment methods. Given the option, 93% of truckers would select instant payments to receive their earnings and, of those that do, 91% say they appreciate the peace of mind that comes from knowing their funds are secure.

Big Idea No. 2: Nearly Three-Fourths of Consumers Want Instant Distributions

It’s not just paychecks people want instantly; the quicker any kind of disbursement arrives, the happier they are. As we reminded readers in our “Measuring Consumer Satisfaction With Instant Payouts” report, consumers receive a wide array of payments annually including government disbursements, retirement distributions, dividend payouts, insurance settlements and more. Six in 10 Americans get at least one such disbursement per year, and when given the opportunity, 72% of them would elect to receive those distributions instantly. Meanwhile, 78% of those that did were highly satisfied with the experience.

Big Idea No. 3: Instant Payments When ‘Speed and Convenience Are Critical’ 

Although instant disbursements in the U.S. dropped slightly post-pandemic, that decline was due primarily to a reduction in the government payments that were disbursed in during the peak months of COVID-19, says Drew Edwards, CEO of Ingo Payments. According to Edwards, the need for speed is now driving a resurgence in instant payments.

“Where we’re seeing activity [now] is in those areas where speed and convenience are critical,” Edwards told PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster in a recent interview. “Wherever there is an industry where there are all these sub-industries that are accelerating payments, like tax refunds, refund anticipation loans, earned wage access … whenever that’s present, that means people need the money faster, and that’s probably the tip of the spear … because it’s more of a need than just a want.”

Big Idea No. 4: Small Businesses Want to Settle Up Quickly Too

You know who else appreciates faster payments? Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), that’s who. In the Restaurant Edition of our “Small Business Real-Time Payments Barometer,” we determined that 44% of restaurant SMBs generating more than $1 million in annual revenues say that instant payments are their most used payment rail, with 68% of those identifying speed as a their primary reason for using the rail. Perhaps most importantly, 76% of restaurant SMBs that use instant payments as their primary method of sending payments report having very or extremely healthy balance sheets as a result.

Similarly, in the Healthcare Edition of the report, we found that 66% of healthcare SMBs sent real-time payments last year and 38% of them said instant payments are now their go-to, preferred method of payment.

Big Idea No. 5: Fraud Concerns Hinder Adoption, but FIs Are Fighting Back

As PYMNTS Intelligence revealed in “P2P Payment Potential: Promoting Convenience While Protecting Consumers,” despite the popularity of peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, the possibility of fraud and cybercrime continues to hinder widespread adoption among many potential users. Two of the most popular P2P platforms, Zelle and Venmo, have been exploited by fraudsters, including impostor frauds where criminals pose as friends or financial institutions (FIs) to steal sensitive information. In 2023, Americans lost more than $2 billion to such scams, with 28% of P2P users reporting fraud experiences. Generation Z and millennials appear to be especially vulnerable, with 47% and 38% affected, respectively. Moreover, 21% of users received money from incorrect senders, often a ploy to launder money.

The good news is that we found that 71% of financial institutions (FIs) now leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to combat fraud. And, according to our “Leveraging AI and ML to Thwart Scammers” report, FIs using ML or AI anti-fraud solutions were 17% less likely to report experiencing fraud scams than those FIs that rely solely on traditional fraud prevention tools.


Both consumers and small business leaders are demonstrating a strong preference for instant payments. For consumers, instant payments means they will get their funds faster — whether they are expecting a paycheck or a distribution from Uncle Sam. For business owners, instant payment can mean improved efficiencies and healthier balance sheets. And although fraudsters continue to prey on instant payment channels, FIs are deploying AI and other advanced technologies to mitigate the risk of fraud all while the demand for quicker payments continues to increase.