Instant payments, also called real-time payments (RTP), are an emerging payment technology that provides recipients with near-instantaneous access to funds thanks to specialized networks and the elimination of the traditional settlement process. Instant payments have gained significant popularity around the world in recent years and are quickly becoming a mainstream option for U.S. consumers, who today primarily make use of peer-to-peer (P2P) payment services like Venmo and Zelle. But what started out as a niche payment method used for direct transfers between family and friends is quickly becoming big business, attracting major players like Visa, Mastercard, and even the Federal Reserve. And, as instant payments garner more attention and gain wider adoption, they also become more important to merchants and, in turn, to your ISO.   


What are Instant Payments?

To the average consumer, all electronic payments may seem instant. After all, when they tap their credit cards or pay online, they get an immediate confirmation of the payment’s success or failure. But merchants understand all too well that credit and debit card payments are far from instant, and the clearing and settlement processes can often take days. 

Instant payments, by comparison, are a (relatively) new payment technology that makes transactions as instantaneous for the payee as they are for the payer. Instant payments aren’t batched like credit card transactions. They’re submitted as soon as they occur and clear and settle in near-real-time. Within as little as a few seconds, the funds from a real-time payment become irrevocably available to the payee – a system as close to cash as possible while still remaining digital and contactless. 

Today, instant payments are generally facilitated over purpose-built networks connecting partner banks – often referred to as rails. Zelle, The Clearing House RTP network, the UK’s Faster Payments Service, Canada’s Interact eTransfer, and the upcoming FedNow system from the U.S. Federal Reserve are all examples of RTP rails. In the mid-2000s, only a small fraction of countries had access to instant payment rails, but today, almost 75% of the world’s population has access to RTP infrastructure, and that number will only grow.   


Why Instant Payments Matter to Your Merchants

Instant payments offer some important benefits to merchants. First and foremost, just like next-day and same-day funding on credit card transactions, instant payments speed up a merchant’s access to funds, improving their cash flow and financial health. Faster access to funds is so important that a 2020 survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Banks found that:

  • 90% of all businesses consider immediate access to funds as somewhat or very important to cash flow management. 
  • 75% of micro-businesses and 60% of non-micro-businesses cited cash flow management as a top concern.
  • 66% of all businesses and 75% of medium-sized and larger businesses would weigh access to faster payments when considering switching banks. 

In short, instant payments offer your merchants greater financial security. They also reduce the need to keep a cash contingency on hand to cover delays in traditional transaction funding – something over 60% of businesses do, according to Wells Fargo and Deloitte.

Instant payments also matter to merchants because they matter to consumers. Three out of four U.S. consumers made use of a P2P payments platform in 2021, and 45% used a “fast money movement” service. And U.S. users are actually behind in RTP adoption, which is more prominent in places like India, China, and South Korea. As instant payments become more familiar and preferred by consumers, merchants failing to adopt them will run into the same problems encountered by merchants who failed to adopt contactless payments during the pandemic – consumers will simply migrate to competitors that offer the options they want. 

Finally, real-time payments offer a wide variety of operational benefits to merchants, ranging from faster, easier ways to pay vendors to increased loyalty among employees who get paid more frequently, and beyond. 


What the Growth of Instant Payments Means for Your ISO

Instant payments are just one more in a growing number of payments technologies your ISO needs to support in order to offer your merchants a truly omnichannel payments experience. 

One of the key aspects of instant payments is that both the sender and receiver need to have access to the same real-time payment rails for a transaction to go through. As more networks come online and banks of all sizes gain access to more and more rails, friction in the space will shrink significantly. But, today, not all banks have equal access to RTP infrastructure. That means, as a merchant services provider, the more processors and acquiring banks you have access to, the more likely it is you’ll be able to offer your merchants the solutions they need – including real-time payments. 

Luckily, maximizing the options you can offer your merchants doesn’t have to be complex, and can be as simple as choosing the right omnichannel payments partner. For instance, NMI Full Commerce Enablement offers integration with over 200 payment processors, giving your ISO one-stop access to an enormous range of processing services, gateway and value-added resales, and more. 



IRIS CRM is the nerve center of NMI’s Full Commerce Enablement platform. As the payments industry’s top customer resource management system, IRIS CRM empowers hundreds of ISOs and payment facilitators to manage all aspects of their sales and operations from a single software tool.

From streamlined lead management and sales, to lightening fast automated onboarding, to automatic residuals calculations, to elevated service and support, and beyond, IRIS CRM and NMI Full Commerce Enablement offer ISOs everything they need to work smarter, outcompete larger rivals, and grow faster. 

To find out more about everything the industry’s best payments CRM can do for your ISO, schedule a free guided demonstration of IRIS CRM today.