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Jamaicans still love their chequebooks, but electronic payments slowly making gains

Published:Sunday | November 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Paper cheques continue to dominate current account transactions, but electronic transfers are slowly gaining in popularity, according to clearing house manager Edmundo Jenez.

The Automated Clearing House (ACH) recorded a 20.3 per cent increase in such electronic transactions year to date October.

Transaction volumes settled under the ACH were close to 7.67 million at the end of October 2014, of which 5.83 million were paper cheques and 1.84 million were electronic transactions.

Comparatively, of the total 7.84 million transactions settled through the clearing house at October 2013, only 1.53 million items were done electronically.

"Electronic transactions are increasing. One can arrange a number of transactions just by sitting at one's desk and even set up a schedule for it to be done automatically every month," said Jenez, who as general manager of JETS also oversees the ACH.

Electronic transactions were also up for the full calendar year in 2013. Then the volume of transactions rose to 1.867 million and were valued at $115.4 billion.

In 2012, there were 1.441 million electronic cheque transactions valuing $91.025 billion.

Still, a super majority of 76 per cent of payment volumes through the ACH, which account for 86.5 per cent of transaction values, is still done via paper cheques.

"Cheques still have their portability and are fairly useful," said Jenez.

The ACH is used to clear transactions valuing up to $2 million. Payments above that threshold must be passed through the Bank of Jamaica-operated Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS).

In 2012, the value of all transactions cleared through the ACH totalled $1.225 trillion, but while volumes rose in 2013, transaction values declined to $1.169 trillion in 2013, due in part to a change in central bank policy.

Jenez said the reduction resulted from the migration of transactions over $2 million to the RTGS system at the high value end, and less reliance on cheques as the method of payment for small values. He said the latter was potentially linked to rising popularity of other electronic payments systems such as debit and credit cards and Internet-based transactions.

The ACH is owned by a group of banks and managed on their behalf by JETS.