A MasterCard International consumer research survey has revealed that for the first time automatic payments have surpassed cheques as the dominant method for paying recurring bills in the US. The study shows that 67% of US households now pay some recurring bills automatically, compared to those writing cheques (64%). Thirty-eight percent of households link payments automatically to a credit card, and 31% charge them automatically to a debit card.

In addition the number of bills paid automatically has risen from an average of 3.1 bills per household in the year 2000 to 4.4 bills today, and over the same period the number of cheques written declined by close to 50% – from 4.4 to 2.4 among these households. Most customers cite convenience as their primary motivation to begin automatic recurring payments.

While telecom payments are listed in the service categories that have the highest proportion of customers using automatic payments, the same is not true of energy and water utilities, and expectations are that this sector is likely to grow in the future.