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All You Need To Know About Real Time Payments

What are real time payments?

Real time payments (RTPs) are payments that clear and settle almost instantaneously using an underlying platform or network called a “payment rail.” The key characteristics of real time payments include immediate availability of funds, settlement finality, instant confirmation, and integrated workflows. Built on the connection between payer and payee, real time payment solutions can be used by individual consumers, merchants of any size, and financial institutions to carry out payments to customers or peers, transfer money, or settle bills.

Cash is the original real time payment system — an instant, unambiguous exchange of hard currency. But in today’s world, customers and merchants rarely transact in person and almost never handle cash. So, real time payment solutions are the digital alternatives to the immediacy of cash transactions, making payments available instantly across geographic time zones and borders. For businesses and individuals who need a fast, frictionless payment experience, real time payments can be transformative.

What are some examples of real time payments?

Businesses and individuals are eager to adopt RTPs, as the growth statistics show. The usage of real time payments has tripled since 2020. Additionally, PYMNTS research found that real time payments accounted for 17% of all disbursements made in 2021, up from 5.7% the year prior.

Current examples of real time payment solutions include:

RTPs® Network by The Clearing House: Introduced in 2017 by The Clearing House Payments Company LLC, the RTPs® Network was the first real time payment network available in the U.S. RTPs® Network is available to all federally insured U.S. commercial banks, credit unions, and savings institutions and handles use cases ranging from payroll to credit transfers, Business to Business (B2B) real time transactions, and more.

P2P Payment Apps: Peer 2 Peer (P2P) apps like Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are now considered real time payments due to their integration with The Clearing House’s RTPs® Network. By sending payments over the RTPs network, these apps are able to perform instant settlements and complete back-office processing, ultimately improving efficiency and reducing costs.

Euronet’s REN: REN is a new payments software by global fintech provider Euronet. Founded on a microservices architecture that leverages the latest development languages and best practices, REN serves many markets from Fintech and traditional banking to hospitality and online marketplaces.

Australia’s New Payments Platform (NPP): In 2018, Australia introduced NPP to the public. A new payment system infrastructure designed originally for retail payments, NPP now helps Australian citizens access real time settlement with enhanced transaction messaging. In the second half of 2021, the Australian Government used the NPP to distribute more than $12 billion of payments for COVID-related support and disaster relief.

Type: Line-chart

Title: By the numbers: Venmo annual payment volume ($bn)


  • 2018 - 62
  • 2019 - 101
  • 2020 - 159
  • 2021 - 230

The difference between real time payments and faster payments

Many use “faster” and “real time” interchangeably when it comes to payment types, but there are important differences between the two terms.

Faster payments include any type of electronic solution for making payments that post and settle faster than traditional payment methods. So, sending money via Venmo or Zelle is certainly considered a faster payment as it relates to, say, writing and depositing a check.

With real time payments, transactions are initiated and settled with finality near instantaneously ‚ not over the course of minutes or hours.

Takeaway: All real time payments can be considered faster payments, but not all faster payments are considered real time payments.

Speed and agility: the advantages of real time payments

Real time payments are as fast and efficient as it gets. And the value of this kind of reliable financial immediacy can’t be understated. Consider the following benefits:

Improved cash flow — Cash flow is the life blood of a company. After all, running out of money is the quickest way to close up shop. Businesses must be able to complete payroll, purchase supplies or services, meet short-term commitments, and pay bills on time. Real time payments make it easier than ever to access the cash you need, when you need it.

Enhanced visibility into payments — Businesses need insight into where and how they’re spending money in order to best manage finances. RTPs send and track payments easily with precision, giving you a complete picture of your finances in real time so you can make informed, data-driven decisions and forecasts.

Simplified business operations — Money movement workflows are often time-intensive, laden with costly third-party middlemen and unnecessary paperwork. With real time payments and improved liquidity, businesses can save money and free up employee time on manual operations to instead focus on more essential elements of the business.

Improved business relationships — Vendors and clients are often caught in limbo waiting for payments to clear, which can impact trust and impede innovation. Real time payments solve for this issue, eliminating doubt and saving time.

Increased innovation — Disruptive innovation always breeds new business models and new applications. RTPs will inevitably evolve the payment experience for customers, suppliers, banks, employees, and business partners, enabling faster and clearer collaboration.

The future of real time payments

The worldwide demand for real time payment solutions is indisputable. In 2020, the real time payments market was valued at US $10.64 billion. These numbers are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 33% from 2021 to 2028.

Still in development and slated to launch in 2023, FedNow represents the U.S. Federal Reserve’s real time payments solution. Meant to service financial institutions of every size in every community, FedNow aims to provide safe and efficient instant payment services in real time, accessible 24/7/365. While FedNow is really no different than The Clearing House’s RTP Network, maintaining both options improves economic security for the U.S.

An illustration showing how the FedNow Service uses the real time payments solution.

RTPs and MongoDB: understanding real time payment solutions

The payments industry is undergoing massive change and the opportunity to profit from technological innovations like real time payments requires participants to become more agile than ever before. But keeping pace can be challenging if you’re relying on relational databases or foundational technology created decades ago.

MongoDB’s Developer Data Platform offers a flexible document data model that helps payment platforms get to market faster as well as reduce data fragmentation and unnecessary complexity. With its JSON-like format, the document data model at the heart of MongoDB and its multi-cloud database product MongoDB Atlas allow you to alter the structure, format, location, and storage of your data in response to changing information and requirements. This leads to an enriched payments experience with data in any format or structure. For established enterprises interested in modernizing their payment landscape, MongoDB lets you build new services and products rapidly using existing data via an Operational Data Layer.

An illustration showing how to make a real time payment solution with MongoDB in an existing operational data layer.


The real time payments landscape is quickly evolving from a few focused projects in their nascent development to an innovative must-have across industries. In order to keep pace with the change, companies need to enrich and update their foundational technology. That’s where MongoDB comes in. Our flexible document data model and fully-managed database can help you get to market faster and better serve your customers.

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What are real time payments?

Real time payments are payments that are immediately available to the recipient within seconds of the sender initiating the transaction.

What are examples of real time payments?

Real time payments network by The Clearing House, peer-to-peer payment apps like Zelle or Venmo, and Euronet’s REN.

How long does a real time payment take?

Real time payments clear and settle almost instantaneously.

Who uses real time payments?

Banks, consumers, and businesses that send and receive payments use real time payments.

What is the advantage of real time payments?

The speed and agility of RTPs enable improved cash flow, enhanced visibility into payments, and streamlined business operations.