Two decades ago, the normal way business transactions were handled was fairly straightforward – cash or check was used to pay for nearly everything. Even many credit card transactions were still handled with a paper system. But as more and more banks added debit cards to checking accounts, and as the internet grew in size, scope, and popularity, another option appeared. ACH – or Automated Clearing House – began to change the way commerce and money in general was used.
ACH did a lot of different things to the way that we use, spend, and transfer money. By eliminating the need to mail off checks to pay bills or buy items, it added a layer of simplicity that was long missing from the economy. Today, ACH is a key factor in nearly all online transactions. And with more than half of all Americans reporting that they regularly shop online, it's hard to ignore the way ACH changed our shopping habits.
It didn't just influence the way we shop, of course. It also changed the way we get paid. Direct deposit payroll accounts have steadily grown in popularity as more and more people and businesses uncover the convenience it offers them. There's no need to pick up checks, try to reach the bank before they close, and cash or deposit the check. It just shows up in the account when it's supposed to. It works the other way, too, with plenty of consumers paying bills regularly through an automated system that takes the payment out of their bank account and deposits it in the appropriate place.
Major businesses use ACH regularly, too. Most business to business transactions are handled through this type of processing today, helping make it easier to track funds, keep up with data, and more.
All of this adds up to one simple thing – the fact that ACH has changed the way we use money by nearly taking paper money out of the equation entirely. People today use bank cards, automatic payments, and other digital transactions instead of handling paper bills. In fact, some people hardly ever see actual printed money anymore – nearly all of their transactions are completed through ACH systems, from direct deposit to automatic bill pay to point of sale debits and beyond. The process will continue, too. Experts predict that the use of ACH will only grow over the coming years. More businesses will adopt it, more consumers will use it, and paper money will continue to be used less and less.