The majority of U.S. consumers with Internet access routinely pay bills online, and online bill payment continues to grow faster than all other consumer payment methods, suggest the results of a survey Synergistics Research Corp. released July 7.

Synergistics in March surveyed 1,003 U.S. consumers to explore their payment behaviors. It found that 75% of consumers with Internet access routinely use “online bill payment” to pay their bills, compared with 50% who said so in 2004. Among the respondents with Internet access, they paid 41% of their household bills online; 28% of bills by check, 10% of bills by preauthorized automatic withdrawal, 8% by debit card, 7% with cash and 6% via credit card.

“Online bill payment is clearly extensive among Internet households and is, in fact, the primary method of bill payment,” William McCracken, Synergistics CEO, said in a statement. “It can no longer be considered an ‘extra’ or ‘value-added’ service by financial institutions, but simply one that must be offered as a matter of competitive parity.”

Financial institutions could strengthen customer relationships and loyalty by providing special pricing and incentives for those using their online bill-payment options, McCracken suggests. “The focus of financial institutions should be to continue to grow the proportion of bills paid online, as well as to drive as much of this activity as possible to their own sites rather than billers’,” he said.

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