"Our Habits Are Slow to Change": A Discussion about Payments

04/25/2019

Tom Heintjes: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Economy Matters podcast. I'm Tom Heintjes, managing editor of the Atlanta Fed's Economy Matters magazine. Today we're talking about the payments landscape with two people uniquely qualified to discuss it: Claire Greene, a payments risk expert in the Atlanta Fed's Retail Payments Risk Forum, and Nancy Donahue, a project manager in the Retail Payments Risk Forum. And Claire and Nancy both contribute to Take On Payments, the blog from the Retail Payments Risk Forum. Nancy and Claire—thanks a lot for taking time to talk with us today.

Nancy Donahue: Thank you so much for inviting us to speak with you.

Claire Greene: Great to be here—thanks, Tom.

Claire Green, a payments risk expert, and Nancy Donahue, a project manager, both of the Atlanta Fed's Retail Payments Risk Forum, during the recording of a podcast episode.

Nancy Donahue (left) and Claire Greene. Photo: David Fine

Heintjes: Nancy and Claire, there are a few things I want to get to today, but let's start off with the Federal Reserve Payments StudyOff-site link. Nancy, you recently wrote about the study, which we conduct every three years. Briefly, can you talk about the study and why we conduct it? How does it inform what we do?

Donahue: Absolutely. The Federal Reserve began the Payments Study in 2001, and it is conducted in partnership between the Board of Governors and the Atlanta Fed. When we first started the study, the initial goal was to better understand what was going on with check volumes and check writing trends. However, over the years it's grown and evolved as payments habits and preferences of U.S. consumers and businesses have changed. The study tracks the aggregate number and value of non-cash payments in the United States, which includes card payments, ACH [automated clearinghouse], check, wire transfers, cash withdrawals, and then emerging payments such as person-to-person payments. But it is considered the benchmark study of noncash payments in the United States.

Heintjes: Right. That sounds immense.

Donahue: Yes, it is quite an undertaking, and I would like to also add that just in the last month or so—in late March and early April—we mailed out approximately 4,000 invitations to depository institutions, payment card networks and processors, to participate in the 2019 study.

Heintjes: Great, so this is a very timely conversation for us to be having.

Donahue: Yes, it very much is. And high-quality, robust industry participation makes it possible for us to produce results on which the industry has come to rely for use in strategic planning, benchmarking, and other activities related to payments. So we very much appreciate the time and effort that our respondents take to provide us data.

Heintjes: Yes, you mentioned that it's crucial to its success.

Donahue: Yes, very much so. But along those same lines, one of the significant enhancements to the study over the years has to be the addition of third-party payments fraud data, beginning in the 2013 study.

Heintjes: Oh, well, hold that thought, because we're going to get back to that. But first, thanks for all that context on the history of the Payments Study, Nancy. So you mentioned the addition of third-party payments fraud, a significant enhancement to the study. But what exactly is payments fraud, and how big is it, and how well are we staying ahead of the fraudsters?

Donahue: Sure. For this study, "payments fraud" is defined as a cleared and settled transaction by an unauthorized third party, usually that occurs through the exploitation of a vulnerability or a security failure in a payment type, initiation method, or system. The results in our study are before any chargebacks, returns, or recoveries are assessed. So Claire, what are some examples of fraud outside the scope of our study?

Greene: Sure. When you think about fraud, there's a big universe of fraud, and most fraud does involve a payment. For example, if you receive an email from someone saying, "Please pay for my rental cottage on Cape Cod this summer," and you authorize a payment to be made for that rental cottage, that is not payments fraud as defined in our study because it's an authorized payment. We also exclude so called "first-party" fraud, where perhaps your child or a friend—a so-called friend—got a hold of your debit card and PIN number and then executed and authorized a debit card transaction. So that, too, would be excluded.

And as Nancy pointed out, we're measuring the direct costs of fraud. That means we aren't measuring any costs of prevention. That, for example, could include the software that a merchant purchases to make sure that it's highly likely that the card transaction being made at that merchant's website is authorized. And then it also doesn't include costs of mitigation, which for example could include any financial cost that a depository institution incurs after a data breach. For example, after the Target breach in 2014 many financial institutions reissued debit cards, and that of course is a significant cost, but it's not the direct dollar value of the specific payment fraud, which is what this study is measuring.

Heintjes: Right. And I know I used the term "fraudster," which I guess is a nice euphemism for "criminal." Really, it's a criminal activity, isn't it?

Greene: It is indeed a massive, criminal activity. And I do appreciate your pointing that out, because there is something about the term "fraudster" that is kind of cute. And also, fraud generally as a crime does not involve a threat to an individual's person, and I think therefore that makes it easier for people to either romanticize it with tales of Ponzi schemes or various schemes that happened 50 years ago that maybe sound cute to our ears in the 21st century. But it is indeed a serious crime, and payments fraud frequently is executed by criminal enterprises—multiperson enterprises with different types of expertise, not necessarily just one person in a room. And a criminal enterprise, just like a legitimate business enterprise, is always engaged in continuous improvement. So as banks, financial institutions, merchants, and we as individual consumers work to fight fraud, it's always the case that criminals are going to be trying to improve on their methods of perpetrating fraud.

Heintjes: Sure. I think Nancy already used the term "whack-a-mole." You're trying to beat things back as they pop up.

Donahue: Well, and to Claire's point about it being a criminal enterprise—and we certainly don't want to trivialize the fraud that these companies experience, because we are talking about in the billions of dollars in losses—it's not a trivial amount of money.

Greene: So just to go back to the kinds of money that we are talking about: payments fraud—which, again, this is cleared and settled transactions for noncash payments. So that would include checks, ACH, and cards—three kinds: credit cards, prepaid debit cards, and nonprepaid debit cards)—amounts to about 46 cents for every $10,000 in payments. And you might hear the number "46 cents" and say, "Really, what is the big deal here?"

Heintjes: Pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Donahue: Exactly. But it's important to note that last month, Nell Campbell-Drake, who was on your podcast, mentioned that the dollar value of payments flowing through the U.S. economy is quite huge—it's about $680 billion a day. So once you start multiplying 46 cents by billions, you end up with $8.34 billion of payments fraud—noncash payments fraud—in the U.S. in 2015.

Heintjes: Like I said: real money!

Donahue: Exactly.

Heintjes: Well, the payments study delves into—as you mentioned, Claire—several types of payments fraud. We'll talk about card fraud in a bit, but let me ask you about noncard fraud. What trends are we seeing in things like ACH, or automated clearinghouse, and check fraud—things like that?

Donahue: Certainly. So ACH fraud rates, by both number and value, are relatively low and stable, and our research conducted over the last few years shows that ACH debit transfers, which are originated by the payee's bank, are more subject to fraud than credit transfers, which are originated by the payer's bank.

Heintjes: Interesting.

Donahue: So much so that the fraud rate, by value, of ACH debit transfers was twice the rate of credit transfers in both 2015 and 2016. But overall, ACH fraud in 2015 was at .08 of a basis point. In actual dollars, that equates to $1.16 billion in 2015 of ACH fraud.

Greene: So just to put those credit and debit numbers in perspective: think about the kind of control the person or the business making the payment has over these different kinds of transfers. A credit transfer would be what we call a "push payment"—so that's initiated by the person who owns the account, and who has the money, and a debit transfer is a "pull payment," where the payment is being initiated by the entity that is receiving the money. So for example, if you pay your electric bill automatically online via your bank account routing number and account number, that would be an ACH debit transfer.

Donahue: And in terms of check fraud, our research has shown that it has declined by all measures in both 2012 and 2015. So by value, check fraud declined from $1.1 billion in 2012 to $710 million in 2015. But as Claire said about Nell Campbell-Drake's comments—and just for context, it's important to point out that in 2015 almost 97 percent of all payments, by value, were processed over the check and ACH systems. So it will be interesting to see when we repeat the payments study this year, in 2019, the changes in the mix of payments when we publish our results later this year.

Heintjes: Right—it will be interesting. Well, can you address briefly, when it comes to fraud, where do we see more of it—credit cards, debit cards—and why do you think it breaks down as it does?

Greene: A good way to compare fraud among different payment instruments is to look at a rate, which would just be a ratio of the fraudulent payments to the total either number or value of payments. And a rising fraud rate would mean, just for example, that while credit card payments by number certainly increased quite a bit between 2012 and 2015, that the rate of fraudulent credit card payments increased even faster between 2012 and 2015. And we do find generally that credit card fraud rates are higher than debit card fraud rates. In 2015, credit card fraud rates were 14 basis points versus debit card payments, where the fraud rate was 9 basis points—so that's about 50 percent more. Now, another thing to keep in mind is that these are basis points, which are one one hundredth of a percentage point. So we're talking about a tenth of a percentage point in fraud, generally. Also, comparing credit card rates and debit card rates, the credit card fraud rate rose faster from 2012 than the debit card fraud rate rose.

Heintjes: Help me understand this. Is this kind of fraud a factor in the rise of things like two-factor authentication and stuff like that?

Greene: Well, it certainly is the case that two-factor authentication for any kind of a payment is extremely helpful in preventing fraud, I would say. And that basically means something you have—for example, your credit card—and something you know—for example, the PIN or, alternatively, something you have—your phone—and something about you—your fingerprint—that you might use to authorize your phone wallet. And it is the case that looking at the fraud results in the Federal Reserve Payments Study, we do find that debit card payments executed using a PIN have lower fraud rates than payments executed without a PIN.

Heintjes: Interesting.

Greene: Another thing to consider in looking at fraud prevention and where fraud happens is to think about not just the prevention efforts, but also the opportunity for the criminal. So just for example, looking at your debit card, the amount that a criminal could get might be limited by the balance in your checking account. And in your credit card the amount a criminal could get could be limited by your credit limit. Now I know for myself, my credit limit is certainly higher than the amount that I've got in my checking account.

Heintjes: Sure. It's like the old joke about asking the bank robber why he robs banks, and he says, "It's because that's where the money is."

Greene: That's correct—fraud follows opportunity.

Heintjes: Right. Well, the payments study makes clear the growth of debit card payments. Why do you think nonprepaid debit cards have been growing faster than other payment methods? Is it because people are skittish about taking on credit card debt in the wake of the recession and thus only want to spend money they have on hand? Or are there are other factors at work here?

Greene: That's a really good question, and I think there are a number of elements that play into it. The first is that you are correct: in the wake of the financial crisis, people generally decreased their use of credit cards. And we have data on this here at the Atlanta Fed in two surveys that survey U.S. consumers. This is a second survey project, in addition to the Federal Reserve Payments Study, the Survey and Diary of Consumer Payment Choice. And all the data for these studies also are available for download and review online. And what we find when we look at that data at the time of the financial crisis is that consumers increased their use of cash and decreased their use of credit cards in the time from, say, 2008 to 2009. In 2008, about 22 percent of their payments (by number) were in cash, and in 2009 that number went up to 30 percent. Now, part of that could be my choice as a consumer—that I decided to move to a payment instrument that gave me a bigger opportunity for budgeting, as you mentioned, with either cash or a debit card.

The other thing to remember is that we have a two-sided market here. One side is what I as a consumer might want to use, and the other is what a financial institution or other provider might want to offer me. And at the time of the financial crisis, some people had their credit limits reduced, and some people had cards canceled. So there is a combination there of consumer desire and external factors that we can't really analyze. Another thing that we see in the data is that higher-income people are more likely to use credit cards for a higher percentage of their payments—many people who use credit cards cite points as the reason—and people in the middle-income groups use predominantly debit cards as a higher percentage of all their transactions. And the lowest-income households use cash.

Heintjes: Claire, let me change gears for a second here. You've written in your blog about trends in using chip-enabled cards, so we can "dip" them as opposed to the swiping that we all got used to for so long. What trends do we see now in dipping versus swiping?

Greene: The first thing we see is a very big increase in the use of dipping—that is, chip-authenticated payments. Because you can, of course, still swipe a card that has a chip in it, but in 2015, just 3 percent of in-person card payments were chip-authenticated, and in 2017 it was about half.

Heintjes: Yes, I rarely swipe anymore.

Greene: Exactly. There is a real incentive for merchants—beginning in 2015, merchants took on increased liability for fraud losses if they were to continue using the swipe method.

Heintjes: That's a powerful motivation. One of the benefits of chip cards was better fraud prevention. Is this what we're actually seeing? Is that bearing out?

Greene: I would say yes. Chip cards generally are harder to counterfeit, and chip payments also are tokenized, so there is increased security of the card data. And there are two things that come into factor there. The first is looking from 2015 to 2016, we see that in-person card fraud has declined, and remote card fraud has increased. If you look at card fraud rates overall for that time period, it looks like it's flat. But when you take it apart, you see the growth in remote fraud. So a chip payment has no benefit for preventing remote fraud, because it only works as a fraud prevention tool when you pay in person.

Heintjes: So what we're discussing, does it also hold true for remote payments, when you're not physically present using a credit or debit card?

Greene: For a remote payment, it doesn't really matter if your card has a chip or not. That's the evidence that we're seeing, where we see this increase in remote fraud. It's like what you were saying before about Willie Sutton, right?

Heintjes: Right. Oh, you knew the name—very good! [laughter]

Greene: You're going where the money is, and you're also going...you know, it's like any business, right? What's your cost of doing business? Well, it's more expensive to counterfeit a chip card. We also see in the data that the methods that criminals are using to perpetrate card fraud have switched in the mix of methods that are chosen, where up to about 2015, or even 2016, a counterfeit card was the most popular way to do it. And now, the takeover of an account number is the most popular way. Also, if you have an account number and no card, the way to perpetrate that is remotely.

Heintjes: Right, that makes sense. Well, speaking of paying for things remotely, what trends are we seeing in remote payments?

Greene: We're seeing a very big increase in remote payments by number, from 2015 to 2016. Just to clarify, this is remote card payments—we saw a 23 percent increase.

Heintjes: Wow.

Greene: Now, it's also important to keep in mind what the base of that 23 percent is on.

Heintjes: It was coming off a low level?

Greene: Yes. It still is the case that, by number, the share of remote card payments is one quarter of payments, so still three quarters of payments made by cards are made in person. And another thing to consider when you think about that one quarter number is we're not only talking about your online purchases. We're also talking about if you happen to pay your cell phone bill with a card, or if you are paying your property tax bill with a card, or other ways (other than buying clothes online), that you might use a card to make a payment online.

Heintjes: Nancy, in one of your recent essays you alluded to the next generation of payments cards. Do you care to elaborate on that? What's the next new thing I'll have to get used to? [laughter]

Donahue: As Claire mentioned earlier, since the liability shift to merchants occurred in late 2015, chip-enabled cards are now used for the majority of in-person payments. And so chip cards, which sometimes you hear people refer to those as EMV cards. That's actually a brand, a trademark of EMVCo—which stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa—which sets EMV standards for smart card payments and acceptance devices, and chip-enabled terminals. But chip cards overall were designed to make in-person payments more secure. For each transaction a unique, one-time authentication code is necessary for the approval to be generated, and this technology is considered very difficult to replicate, therefore the increased security of the payment. But we also have contactless payments, which are often referred to as "tap-and-pay" or "tap-and-go," that use near-field communication, or NFC communication, to make secure payments using a contactless card or a mobile device, which is also referred to as a digital wallet transaction. And so, similar to chip-enabled payments, a one-time authentication code is generated, and all that it takes is for you to just tap your card on the device at the checkout or swipe your mobile phone.

Heintjes: Yes, I've seen this. I've never used one, but I figure one day I'm going to have to get used to doing that, too.

Greene: It could happen soon. There is a major card issuer that I believe is planning to have at least half of its credit cards be contactless by mid-year 2019.

Heintjes: Wow!

Donahue: I think there are a couple now, and some major financial institutions as well.

Heintjes: That is quite ambitious. We touched earlier on card fraud, which I know is something you folks in the Retail Payments Risk Forum talk about and study a great deal, and the Fed's Payments Study has some interesting information about the amounts of fraudulent transactions versus the legitimate ones. Can you talk a bit about that, and what people might do to spot possible fraud on their own statements?

Greene: Sure. I would say the number one rule of looking out for fraud on your statements is to keep track of your charges. And probably the rule before that is to keep track of your card. But when you look at your statement, I think it's a good idea to look at outliers—you want to look at the very tiny transactions, and also the big ones. For example, when I was freshly out of college I had a card lifted out of my wallet, and the perpetrator went immediately to Filene's Basement and spent my entire month's salary in three separate payments—I still remember there were three charges. So there's an example where the dollar value of the fraudulent transactions was quite a bit higher than the dollar values of my normal transactions.

And this is in fact borne out in the data from the Federal Reserve Payments Study, where in 2016 the average dollar value of a fraudulent card payment was about 50 percent greater than the average dollar value of a normal payment. So for me, I always look at any payment on my statement that has three digits before the decimal, and just pay extra attention to that. Then another thing to think about is, as stealing card numbers becomes a more popular way of perpetrating fraud, sometimes there would be a test transaction of a few pennies on your statement. I know for some reason mine come from an airline very far away, and that is part of the black market for card data, where a number that has been verified as still current is more valuable than a cancelled number. So again, just to look out for things that seem odd at either end—as you would do with lots of kinds of data.

Heintjes: Sure.

Donahue: Sure. And for me, I really like the convenience of getting text alerts on my mobile phone, and I know there are any number of financial institutions or card issuers now that have apps where you can shut your card down straight from your phone. But I receive text alerts any time our debit card or credit card are used for purchases, but particularly for "card not present" purchases. My husband's debit card was actually compromised a couple of years ago, and I was able to call my bank immediately when I started getting these text alerts and shut down his card.

Heintjes: Interesting.

Donahue: And it helps me keep up with him, too.

Heintjes: That's very useful information—thank you. You all in the Retail Payments Risk Forum have also written a column about a topic many of us can relate to, and that is the credit card we have that we never use—you know, sitting in a drawer somewhere. Claire, I think you called it a "zombie" credit card. I think many of us have at least one of them active but without a balance, little or never used, maybe for an emergency. Does this sort of card pose a risk of any sort?

Greene: Well, the first thing I would say is that I don't have any data on this—I just have an intuition—and that I speak for myself, not the Federal Reserve. But I do think—

Heintjes: With that disclaimer...

Greene: With that disclaimer, I do think that it is very important to keep track of your cards, and what we found in 2015 is that of general purpose payments cards, 42 percent were not used at least once a month. And I know that I personally am contributing to that number. We all know how you get these cards: you go to buy a refrigerator and you can get 10 percent off, so of course you take the card. And generally, I don't like active cards hanging around. I can see how it happens. One thing that many people are doing now is putting freezes on their credit accounts, which makes it more difficult to impulsively accept a card at checkout, so maybe that's a side benefit of credit freezes.

Donahue: It's interesting you talk about the zombie cards, because my husband and I are guilty of that as well. He has a credit card that we haven't had a balance on for literally years. And just last week I received a statement in the mail, and the first thing I thought was, "Why are we getting a statement? This is supposed to be a zero balance" and, "Oh, has there been fraud?" Fortunately, there hadn't, but that was the first thing that came to my mind.

Heintjes: They were just letting you know that you owed zero dollars.

Donahue: That's right.

Heintjes: Well, we often hear about the coming "cashless society," when all payments will be digital, or something other than the good old-fashioned greenback. Even our new sports stadium here in Atlanta, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is going cashless. Despite everything, cash seems like the little payment system that could. Why do some people keep predicting the cashless society, and yet cash still persists? Why do we make these predictions, despite all evidence to the contrary?

Greene: Well, it's fun to make predictions, I would say. And second—

Heintjes: I predicted you would say that. [laughter]

Greene: A lot of the proposed replacements have a very whiz-bang, technically appealing feel, and I think we—all of us—enjoy new toys. It is also the case that we are all adding things to our wallets. So if Nancy and I go out to lunch—if we went out to lunch 10 years ago, I would either pay her back with cash or a check. Well, if we go out to lunch tomorrow, I can still offer her the cash and the check, but like many other products and services in our very customer-centric age, the choices have just exploded. I could use PayPal, I could use Venmo, I could use Zelle, I could use a separate P2P app in my online banking—I could even use my online banking bill pay, and eventually she would get a paper check in the mail. So I have many, many choices, but payments—like many other activities we use to organize our worlds—are a habit, and cash is convenient for many people, and familiar. People have been predicting the end of cash since the 1990s. Massachusetts, as far as I know, was the first state to enact a law requiring retail establishments to accept cash.

Heintjes: Interesting.

Greene: That law was enacted in 1978, so people were worrying even then. Now, that's the story, I guess, for cash going away. On the other side of the story, in the consumer surveys conducted by the Atlanta Fed, two thirds of U.S. consumers in 2017 said they would prefer to use cash for a payment of $10 or less. And even people who say they generally prefer cards for purchases frequently switch for low dollar-value amounts. And there are a couple of research papers on this: one at the Boston Fed website, and also one by Oz Shy, an economist here in Atlanta. Oz's paper links people's choice to move from cash to another way to pay to the fact that most ATM withdrawals are in denominations of $20.

Heintjes: Right, that was a very interesting paper. In fact, I want to get him in the studio to talk about that research because I thought it was fascinating.

Greene: Yes.

Donahue: I wholeheartedly agree about your statements about cash, Claire. You know, when you think about the laws that have been enacted requiring businesses to accept cash—now as you were saying a few minutes ago, about the survey and diary and who the cash users are—and those laws do disproportionately affect the people in the lower income brackets.

Heintjes: Well, is one aspect of cash's enduring popularity the fact that it's largely impervious to fraud? And maybe on top of that, the anonymity it affords the consumer?

Greene: In the consumer surveys, we ask people to rate different ways to pay on various characteristics. For example: cost, convenience, security—and cash is interesting, because some people rate it very highly for security. And that is because, as you pointed out, with cash your personal information like your social security number or your address is safe. Also, you retain the privacy of your transaction. So Nancy, I think, was just saying that she knows what her husband might be spending money on because she gets an alert from the card company. Well, if he wants to buy her a surprise present, he should be using cash. On the other hand, most people in the consumer surveys rate cash poorly for security, and that's because that $20 bill can just fall out of your pocket, so permanent financial loss is an important consideration.

Donahue: Or in my case, my dog will eat it. [laughter]

Greene: There we go.

Donahue: My dog ate $10 last week.

Heintjes: There's all manner of risk.

Greene: Yes. So I would say, generally, the reasons that people tend to use cash in certain situations—like Nancy said, to get the soda, buying fast food, low dollar-value purchases. And also, then, there is a subset of people who carry and use cash a lot. A few years ago I was writing a paper on hundred dollar bills, and so I got in the habit of asking a question I'll ask Tom now, which is: when was the last time you saw or held a $100 bill?

Heintjes: Fairly recently, but I rarely ever carry one around.

Greene: Yes. So their responses came in two types. People either said, "My uncle gave me one when I was 12, to impress me," or something like that. Or, "I have one right now." And there are some people who do like to use cash as their primary payment instrument, and they have it, they have more of it, and they use it more frequently. And it's a personal preference.

Heintjes: All right, Nancy and Claire—most of what we've talked about so far is what's already happened, but I'm going to switch gears and ask you to take out your crystal balls now. So if you had to make a prediction about the next big revolution in payments—or even a small revolution—what would it be?

Greene: I do want to repeat that payments is a habit, and our habits are slow to change. And that's actually not bad. Richard Thaler, who won the Nobel Prize in economics, said, "People are not dumb. The world is hard." So habits are okay for managing our daily life. That said, cash is not the only habit. Cards are also a habit, and our colleague Doug King recently blogged on Take On Payments, and he compared cards to the New England Patriots. He said they would be difficult to dethrone. So that's another habit that's probably—potentially—equally slow to change. So looking at cards, I would say I'm super interested in contactless cards, because just from my personal experience I think they offer another step towards the frictionless transaction. And I wonder if it would affect cash use for these low dollar value transactions. So that's the question that I would be interested in in the short-term future.

Heintjes: Nancy, I'm not going to let you dodge me here, so...

Donahue: Sure. Continuing on that theme about car payments, I think about the race for superiority at the gas pump. Earlier this month, the National Association of Convenience Stores reported that in 2018 almost 80 percent of transactions at the pump were made with either a debit or a credit card—and that payment card costs ranked just behind labor for the greatest expense for convenience store owners. The deadline for chip-enabled card readers at the pump has been extended a couple of times and is now October 2020. But most gas stations are independently owned, and the capital investment required to upgrade each pump is several thousand dollars, so it's a significant outlay for stores that have several gas pumps. So although card skimming is a real issue in that environment, that activity doesn't translate into losses for the business owner that's been mandated to make those upgrades. Meanwhile, there's been a flurry of new mobile apps that combine loyalty programs and payment capabilities for a number of fuel brands, so combined with the new connected cars, I wonder if chip-enabled pumps will ever come to fruition or just be overtaken by mobile pay-at-the-pump technology if it's ultimately less expensive for that business owner to implement.

Heintjes: Right, OK. Well, we'll have you two back on some day and look back on our predictions, and see what happened. You know, there was so much to talk about today that I probably should have asked you this question up front, but I dove right in. So before we say goodbye, could you please share with everyone a little bit about the Retail Payments Risk Forum—which we've mentioned a lot today—and its work?

Donahue: Sure. The best way I can describe the Retail Payments Risk Forum is that we are a boutique think tank on payments and payments risk. The Forum's mission is to promote risk mitigation in retail payments, and the tools we use to do that work are research, collaboration, convening, speaking, and writing—and podcasts such as this. We publish primary and secondary research and weekly blogs, and host quarterly webinars on all things related to payments, and you can read our weekly blogs, they post every Monday at takeonpayments.frbatlanta.org.

Heintjes: And we'll have a link to that site on the website. Nancy and Claire, thank you so much for your time today. This is a really, really interesting conversation. And given the ongoing nature of the study and the ongoing nature of the changing payments system, I think we're going to have to plan a return engagement at some point to talk about all the new developments.

Greene: Sounds great—we'd love to come back.

Donahue: Thank you, Tom. And if I could just take one more opportunity to say "thank you" once again from the Federal Reserve System to the institutions and organizations that participate in the payments study. We recognize that their participation requires a good deal of commitment to collect, validate, and submit accurate data, and their support of the study is greatly appreciated

Heintjes: I know you don't take that for granted, and I appreciate your saying that. Well, again—I'm Tom Heintjes, managing editor of the Atlanta Fed's Economy Matters magazine. Thanks for spending time with us today, and please visit Economy Matters at frbatlanta.org/economy-matters and read some of the interesting features that we have there. I also encourage you to visit the Atlanta Fed's Retail Payments Risk Forum, which we've mentioned so much today, and you'll see the Take On Payments blog that we've been talking about. And please come back next month, when I'll sit down with Atlanta Fed economist Tao Zha to discuss his recent research into why house prices move as they do. Thanks for spending time with us today, and let's get together next month.