Skip to main content

Now supporting payments via Bitcoin Lightning

Exploring the Evolution of Payment Rails in the United States

Lee Cocking
Post by Lee Cocking
May 18, 2023
Exploring the Evolution of Payment Rails in the United States

In today's digital age, electronic funds transfer (EFT) has become the cornerstone of the modern payment ecosystem. This umbrella term encompasses a wide array of electronic payment methods, each with its own unique features and functions. In this blog post, we will delve into these different payment rails, shedding light on their characteristics, key players, and the profound impact they have on financial transactions.

The term Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) serves as a broad category that encompasses a multitude of electronic payment methods. These methods have revolutionized the way individuals, businesses, and financial institutions handle financial transactions. Offering convenience, security, and efficiency, EFT has transformed the way money moves within the United States.

We will examine several prominent payment rails that fall under the umbrella of EFT. These payment rails include the well-established ACH system, the rapid and high-value wire transfers, the real-time capabilities of RTP, the highly anticipated future addition of FedNow. and the competitive P2P market. By understanding the nuances and advantages of each payment rail, we can gain insights into the diverse options available and make informed decisions regarding our financial transactions, in addition to how Cybrid can help empower different payment use cases.

ACH (Automated Clearing House)

ACH, short for Automated Clearing House, is a widely used payment rail within the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) ecosystem in the United States. It serves as a backbone for various electronic transactions, enabling the transfer of funds between banks and financial institutions. ACH has played a pivotal role in streamlining payment processes for individuals, businesses, and organizations.

How ACH Works:

ACH transactions involve the electronic transfer of funds between two bank accounts. The process begins with the originator, who initiates the payment. The originator's bank, also known as the Originating Depository Financial Institution (ODFI), processes the payment request and transmits it to the ACH network. The ACH network acts as a central hub for routing and facilitating the transactions.

Once the ACH network receives the transaction, it verifies and processes the payment information, including the account numbers and relevant details of the sender and recipient. The recipient's bank, known as the Receiving Depository Financial Institution (RDFI), receives the payment instruction from the ACH network and deposits the funds into the recipient's account.

Key Players in ACH:

The ACH network is operated by the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), a not-for-profit association that sets the rules and standards for ACH transactions. NACHA ensures the smooth functioning and governance of the ACH network, establishes guidelines for participants, and promotes innovation in electronic payments.

Within an ACH transaction, the key participants include the originator (the party initiating the payment), the originator's bank (ODFI), the recipient's bank (RDFI), and the recipient (the party receiving the payment). These participants collaborate to facilitate the seamless transfer of funds.

Read more on ACH transfers

Wire Transfers

Wire transfers are a popular and expedited method of transferring funds electronically between banks or financial institutions. Wire transfers provide near real-time settlement, making them an ideal choice for urgent or high-value transactions. They offer a reliable and secure way to send funds domestically or internationally.

How Wire Transfers Work:

Wire transfers involve the electronic transfer of funds from the sender's bank account to the recipient's bank account. The process begins with the sender initiating the wire transfer, either in person at their bank or through online banking. The sender provides the necessary information, including the recipient's bank account details, such as the account number and routing number.

Once the wire transfer request is received by the sender's bank, they initiate the transfer by debiting the sender's account and sending the payment instruction to the recipient's bank. Intermediary banks, known as correspondent banks, may be involved in the process to facilitate the transfer between the sender's bank and the recipient's bank, especially for international wire transfers.

The recipient's bank receives the payment instruction and credits the funds to the recipient's account, ensuring the swift delivery of the transferred funds. Wire transfers typically provide near real-time settlement, with the recipient gaining access to the funds within the same business day.

Key Players in Wire Transfers:

Wire transfers involve multiple parties, including the sender (originating bank or customer), the recipient (beneficiary or their bank), and intermediary banks (correspondent banks) that facilitate the transfer between the sender and recipient. These intermediary banks ensure the secure and efficient transfer of funds across different financial institutions, especially in the case of international wire transfers.

Overall, wire transfers provide a reliable and expedited solution for transferring funds, making them an attractive option for urgent and high-value transactions, both domestically and internationally.

RTP (Real-Time Payments)

RTP, short for Real-Time Payments, is a revolutionary payment rail that has transformed the speed and efficiency of financial transactions in the United States. As the name suggests, RTP enables individuals and businesses to send and receive funds in real time, providing near-instantaneous settlement and availability of funds.

How RTP Works:

RTP operates through a secure and advanced network that facilitates the immediate transfer of funds. It leverages modern payment infrastructure and innovative technology to enable real-time and irrevocable payments, 24/7. Unlike traditional payment rails, RTP does not involve batch processing or delayed settlement periods.

To initiate an RTP transaction, the sender uses their bank's online or mobile banking platform to send a payment instruction. The payment instruction includes the recipient's information, such as their mobile phone number or email address, which serves as an identifier linked to their bank account.

Once the payment instruction is sent, the funds are immediately debited from the sender's account and credited to the recipient's account in real time. The recipient can access and use the funds right away, making RTP an ideal choice for time-sensitive transactions and immediate fund availability.

Key Players in RTP:

RTP is operated by The Clearing House (TCH), a private sector payment system provider. TCH is responsible for the overall operation, governance, and development of the RTP network. Participating banks and financial institutions connect to the RTP network to offer their customers the ability to send and receive real-time payments.

With its instantaneous settlement and data-rich messaging capabilities, RTP is transforming the way financial transactions are conducted in the United States, providing a seamless and efficient payment experience.


FedNow is an upcoming real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system being developed by the Federal Reserve in the United States. It aims to provide individuals and businesses with instant payment capabilities, similar to RTP. FedNow is designed to enhance the speed, efficiency, and accessibility of payment transactions in the U.S. financial system.

How FedNow Works:

FedNow will operate as a payment rail that allows for immediate transfer of funds between participating banks. Similar to other real-time payment systems, FedNow will leverage advanced technology and infrastructure to enable instant and irrevocable payments.

When a customer initiates a payment through FedNow, the funds will be immediately debited from the sender's account and made available to the recipient in real time. This near-instantaneous settlement will offer individuals and businesses the ability to send and receive funds rapidly, simplifying financial transactions.

Key Players in FedNow:

As the name suggests, FedNow is being developed by the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States. The Federal Reserve is responsible for overseeing the operation, governance, and regulatory aspects of FedNow. Participating banks and financial institutions will connect to the FedNow system to provide their customers with instant payment capabilities.

While FedNow is currently under development, its anticipated launch in the coming years represents an exciting development in the U.S. payment landscape, promising to further enhance the speed and efficiency of financial transactions.


In this comprehensive overview, we have explored various payment rails within the United States' electronic funds transfer landscape.

By understanding the characteristics, benefits, and key players in each payment rail, businesses can make informed decisions about which options align with their specific needs. Exploring the possibilities offered by Embedded Finance platforms like Cybrid allows businesses to unlock new opportunities and leverage emerging technologies, such as cryptocurrency and advanced global payments use cases.

As the payment landscape continues to evolve, embracing the capabilities offered by these payment rails and partnering with an Embedded Finance platform like Cybrid enables businesses to stay ahead, drive growth, and thrive in the digital era.

Lee Cocking
Post by Lee Cocking
May 18, 2023
Lee Cocking, the accomplished Head of Product at Cybrid, is a highly-regarded expert in product management and a driving force in the blockchain industry. With his extensive experience and deep understanding of blockchain technology, Lee provides thought leadership and guidance that shape the development of Cybrid's innovative product offerings. In addition to his wealth of product management knowledge, Lee shares valuable insights on the evolving landscape of blockchain and its potential to revolutionize various industries. His expertise and passion for the technology help to ensure that Cybrid remains at the forefront of the market, delivering cutting-edge solutions that address the unique needs of clients in the ever-changing world of digital assets.