Payments Innovation

Disbursements In The Time Of Instant Money

freelancer at laptop

Instant money is reinventing the world of payments, except where paper checks inexplicably hang on as coin of the realm. Healthcare reimbursements are a prime example of an important business function stuck in a paper past. Dine-in restaurants are another sector that has merely snacked on digitization, while workers and customers crave a full menu of digital payments.

Folding money and paper checks will stick around for the immediate future at least, and the payments industry “… has consistently overestimated the demise of cash …” as PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said in a recent PYMNTS interview. But waiting to get paid by check has become a real problem for growing segments of the population — gig economy workers (aka freelancers) come to mind — who are owed enough of the money they need, but often don’t receive those funds in time to avoid credit-harming delinquencies, service shut-offs and worse.

From other provinces comes happy news that changes are well underway. In Canada, where cash usage has declined 40 percent in the past five years, digital dollars comprised roughly three-quarters of overall payment transactions in 2019. State-backed, nationwide digital payments schemes are making headlines in India, the Philippines and elsewhere. As is laid out in the January 2020 PYMNTS Disbursements Tracker®, instant money and alternative payment options are transforming everything from medical claims to how we license images and video.

Now, Please

If payees had their way, all payments would be instant. That’s a fair (if informal) summary of a half-dozen recent studies about payment preferences. Not everyone wants their instant money delivered the same way, but on the speed of payments there’s little disagreement.

When the bellwethers of banking make a move, everyone notices. Like when JPMorgan Chase & Co. recently partnered with payments processor WorkizPay to address cash flow issues of field service employees by offering same-day payouts for those with Chase bank accounts. Mastercard teamed up with Galileo Financial Technologies to do the same for freelancers.

Instant payments are highly configurable, which helps explain why a unique online marketplace like Shutterstock would want to utilize it. The service, which provides stock images and video footage uploaded and for sale by more than 1 million contributing illustrators, photographers and videographers, has streamlined disbursements. It’s a big hit with users.

“The whole [disbursements] process now is set up for self-service,” Shutterstock Vice President of Content Operations Paul Brennan recently told PYMNTS. “It is a very convenient user experience [when] initially setting up your account, becoming a contributor and then setting your own preferences [on] how it is that you would like to get paid.” With content creators in 150 countries as sellers and half the global media as buyers, Shutterstock has to maintain harmonious relationships with a highly diverse user base. Next-gen digital payment solutions are making it possible.

Unstoppable Instant

From splitting dinner with a peer-to-peer (P2P) app to paying the freelancer who redesigned your website, everything is going instant. On the more serious end of the spectrum are things like insurance and healthcare disbursements, both of which are making slow, steady progress toward digital.

A strange thing happens when it comes to digital payments: everyone wants to receive money instantly, but many people are less enthused about paying out just as fast. Chalk it up to human nature and a closing awareness gap, as disbursements move unstoppably toward instant.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.