Real-Time Payments (RTP) vs. FedNow: A Comprehensive Comparison

The landscape of financial transactions has evolved significantly with the advent of real-time payment systems. Two prominent systems leading this evolution in the United States are Real-Time Payments (RTP) and FedNow. Both systems offer the promise of instant transactions, but they differ in various aspects including their architecture, cost, reach, and additional features. This article delves into the similarities, advantages, and disadvantages of RTP and FedNow, providing a detailed comparison to help businesses and financial institutions make informed decisions.

Overview of Real-Time Payments (RTP)

Real-Time Payments (RTP) is a system developed by The Clearing House (TCH) and launched in 2017. RTP was the first new payments infrastructure in the U.S. in over 40 years, aiming to facilitate immediate funds transfers between banks.

Key Features:

  1. 24/7/365 Availability: RTP operates continuously, providing immediate payment processing any time of the day or night.
  2. Instant Settlement: Transactions are settled in real-time, providing instant confirmation to both the sender and the receiver.
  3. Enhanced Messaging: RTP supports extensive data transmission along with payments, allowing for enhanced communication between transaction parties.
  4. Credit Push Transactions: Payments are initiated by the payer, which adds a layer of security by reducing unauthorized transactions.

Overview of FedNow

FedNow is a real-time payment service being developed by the Federal Reserve, with its launch planned for 2023. FedNow aims to provide a nationwide infrastructure for instant payments, accessible to all financial institutions in the United States.

Key Features:

  1. 24/7/365 Operation: Similar to RTP, FedNow promises continuous availability, enabling instant payments at any time.
  2. Instant Payment and Settlement: FedNow ensures real-time processing and settlement, providing immediate transaction finality.
  3. Broad Accessibility: FedNow aims to be accessible to all U.S. financial institutions, including smaller banks and credit unions, ensuring nationwide reach.
  4. Request for Payment (RFP): FedNow includes a feature that allows payees to send payment requests to payers, streamlining the payment process.

Similarities between RTP and FedNow

  1. Real-Time Processing: Both RTP and FedNow offer real-time payment processing, ensuring funds are transferred instantly.
  2. Continuous Operation: Both systems are designed to operate 24/7/365, providing constant availability for transactions.
  3. Instant Settlement: Transactions on both platforms are settled instantly, providing immediate confirmation and reducing settlement risk.
  4. Enhanced Data Capabilities: Both RTP and FedNow support the transmission of additional data along with payment transactions, improving communication and record-keeping.

Advantages of RTP

  1. Established Infrastructure: As an established system, RTP has already been implemented by many financial institutions, offering a proven track record.
  2. Advanced Messaging Features: RTP’s enhanced messaging capabilities allow for better communication and additional data transfer with each transaction.
  3. Credit Push Transactions: The system’s reliance on credit push transactions enhances security by ensuring payments are initiated only by account holders.
  4. Innovation-Friendly: RTP’s flexible platform supports innovative payment solutions, catering to the evolving needs of businesses and consumers.

Disadvantages of RTP

  1. Limited Reach: RTP is currently limited to financial institutions that are members of The Clearing House, potentially excluding smaller banks and credit unions.
  2. Adoption Costs: Initial implementation and integration with existing systems can be costly for financial institutions.
  3. Interoperability Issues: Differences in payment systems across institutions may lead to interoperability challenges, hindering seamless transactions.

Advantages of FedNow

  1. Wide Accessibility: FedNow is designed to be accessible to all U.S. financial institutions, including smaller banks and credit unions, promoting financial inclusion.
  2. Federal Reserve Backing: The involvement of the Federal Reserve adds a layer of trust and reliability, encouraging widespread adoption.
  3. Request for Payment (RFP): The RFP feature simplifies the payment process, making it easier for businesses to request and receive payments.
  4. Interoperability: FedNow aims to ensure interoperability with other payment systems, facilitating smoother transactions across different platforms.

Disadvantages of FedNow

  1. Delayed Launch: With a launch planned for 2023, FedNow is still in development, delaying its availability and benefits to businesses and consumers.
  2. Adoption Hurdles: Financial institutions may face challenges in integrating FedNow with their existing systems and processes.
  3. Unproven System: As a new system, FedNow lacks the established track record of RTP, creating uncertainty regarding its initial performance and reliability.

Cost Breakdown

RTP Costs

  • Implementation Fees: Initial setup costs for integrating RTP with existing banking systems.
  • Transaction Fees: Fees charged per transaction, which vary depending on the financial institution and volume of transactions.
  • Maintenance Costs: Ongoing costs for system maintenance, updates, and customer support.

FedNow Costs

  • Implementation Fees: Costs associated with integrating FedNow, which may vary based on the institution’s size and existing infrastructure.
  • Transaction Fees: The Federal Reserve has indicated that transaction fees will be competitive, though specific rates are yet to be finalized.
  • Maintenance Costs: Similar to RTP, ongoing costs for maintaining the system, including updates and support.


Both RTP and FedNow represent significant advancements in the realm of real-time payments, offering numerous benefits to businesses and financial institutions. RTP, with its established infrastructure and advanced messaging capabilities, provides a proven solution for instant payments. FedNow, backed by the Federal Reserve, promises broader accessibility and innovative features like the Request for Payment.

Choosing between RTP and FedNow will depend on various factors including the size of the financial institution, existing infrastructure, and specific business needs. While RTP is already operational and offers a wealth of experience, FedNow’s potential for nationwide reach and inclusion makes it a compelling option for the future.

Ultimately, both systems are poised to revolutionize the way financial transactions are conducted, bringing greater efficiency, speed, and security to the payments landscape in the United States. Both options are provided by Liftoff Solutions on their API integrated platform. 

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