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Pay Your Way to Better Financial Health

Jack Henry Payments Team
Apr 30, 2024

For many Americans, these are challenging financial times. Sixty-six million have low to moderate incomes, 51 million grapple with income volatility, and more than seven million are unbanked, navigating today’s troubled waters without the help of a local financial institution. Together, these high-risk households pay more than $250 billion in service fees.

In this environment, financial health is more important ‒ and more difficult to maintain ‒ than ever. Using payment tools that help accountholders manage bills, transfer funds, and make purchases quickly and easily from anywhere is one way they can save time and reduce the stress associated with managing their finances.

It’s easy to think of payments as the enemy of financial health. After all, shouldn’t people be saving instead of paying? But that’s a misconception. Payments are important because receiving and disbursing funds efficiently is a natural part of healthy financial living.

How people pay ‒ and how they get paid ‒ can have a sustained positive effect on their financial health, both by allowing them to save money on payment activities and by allowing them to move funds at the most optimal moment through the most effective channel.

Here are five ways accountholders can use payments to improve their financial health.

1.  Digital payments save time and money and encourage savings, while simplifying the payment process.

Digital payments are much easier to initiate than traditional payments, and they usually have lower fees, keeping more money in accountholders’ pockets. Take online or mobile bill pay, for instance. Instead of paying for checks, envelopes, and stamps, many banks and credit unions allow accountholders to pay bills for free. You can set payment reminders or schedule recurring payments to ensure you never miss a payment and avoid late fees. These same benefits apply if accountholders use their financial institution’s person-to-person (P2P) payment, online loan payment, and account transfer options. Many financial institutions also offer “round up” savings tools through their digital solutions, giving consumers an easy way to save by sending the difference between the amount of each payment and the next even dollar directly to a savings account.

2.  Credit cards provide short-term expense flexibility with enhanced security and rewards benefits.

Used responsibly, credit cards are an extremely valuable short-term borrowing vehicle for unexpected expenses. They also help protect purchasers from fraud through robust risk management at the time of purchase and effective dispute resolution afterward. What’s more, credit cards are an excellent way for young accountholders to begin building a credit history. Many cards also offer strong rewards programs that can help accountholders expand their buying power or get a percentage of each purchase back in cash.

Community financial institutions can even help accountholders with revolving credit card balances by offering lower interest rates. When compared to the largest U.S. card issuers, small- and medium-sized banks and credit unions charged as much as 8% to 10% less. That can make a $400 to $500 difference each year for the average cardholder.

3.  Debit cards allow tighter control over finances and provide improved security.

Debit cards simplify the payment process and make it easier to know the exact amount of available funds. Unlike checks, which may take a few days or longer to clear, debit card transactions usually show up in the accountholder’s online or mobile banking application within minutes of them making the payment. This helps prevent accidental overspending. Using debit cards with digital wallets that offer tokenization can make transactions more secure, since a token account number is shared with the merchant during the payment process rather than the accountholder’s actual card number.

4.  Automated Clearing House (ACH) transactions help accountholders pay on time and stay on budget.

Sticking to a financial plan is easier when incoming and outgoing payments are scheduled in advance. With ACH, payroll amounts post automatically without the accountholder having to physically deposit checks. Many financial institutions even make funds available one day ahead of time, which can help families living paycheck to paycheck. Preauthorized ACH debits ensure payments post on the due date, making it easier to know when funds will be pulled out of the account. ACH debits also keep accountholders from accidentally skipping a monthly payment, eliminating associated late fees.

5.  Instant payments help accountholders get money sooner and hold funds longer.

With Zelle®, Payrailz® Pay a Person, the RTP Network®, and the FedNow® Service, consumers and businesses can send and receive money instantly. When incoming payments are sent through these instant channels, accountholders can have access to funds right away. They can also send money instantly, putting the funds in the hands of the recipient in seconds.

These instant payments solutions can help improve accountholder financial health in a variety of ways. For workers in gig economies or traditional workers at companies that offer Earned Wage Access (EWA), payroll can be delivered to accountholders daily, compensating them for the hours worked that same day. This steady flow of funds could be especially helpful to households who operate on a tight budget.

Instant payments also allow accountholders to distribute money to friends and family exactly when the funds are needed, or to pay for goods and services on the day the bill is due. Holding on to funds until the last possible moment, with the assurance that you can make a real-time payment, is another way this payment tool can make managing money easier for cash-strapped families.

Individually, each of these payment opportunities may have a small impact, but the combined effect can make a positive difference on an accountholder’s monetary condition. By learning to send and receive funds in an optimal way, accountholders can put themselves in the best possible position to build a financially healthy future.

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