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Bringing real-time payments to Canada

Woman Making Contactless Payment
Woman Making Contactless Payment
Janet Lalonde, Payments Canada

Janet Lalonde

Senior Director, Real-Time Rail, Payments Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to incredible resilience and motivation for businesses of all shapes and sizes to adapt to Canadians’ digital-first mindset. Whether it’s a gym offering virtual workouts, restaurateurs offering app delivery, or grocers offering tap payments, digital options are forever growing. And Canadians want the level of convenience that “going digital” brings in every facet of our lives.

From a payments perspective, we have seen a continual shift toward digital and contactless payments over the last several years and COVID-19 has accelerated this trend. Canadians are less comfortable handling cash and are therefore tapping credit and debit cards more than ever before. They are also using e-commerce platforms more often and many report that COVID-19 has changed their payments preferences to digital and contactless for the long-term.

Responding to Canadian payments preferences

In response to our ever-growing reliance on digital, Payments Canada continues to build control, speed and convenience into its initiatives for Canadian consumers and businesses. To facilitate faster payments, we are launching Canada’s new real-time payments system, the Real-Time Rail (or RTR), in 2022. Right now, the fastest and most immediate money transfers we see are e-Transfers. However, with this experience, even though I can send you $100 and $100 will show up into your account within a couple of minutes, the money doesn’t move from my financial institution to your financial institution until tomorrow. The difference with what the RTR will enable is that the $100 you send me will arrive in my account within seconds and I can go on – within seconds too – to use that same $100 to pay for something else.

Underpinned by the ISO 20022 data standard, the RTR will also support payments information travelling with every payment and act as a platform for innovation, enabling the introduction of new and enhanced payment products and experiences. Both Interac and Mastercard’s Vocalink, notable players in the payments industry, have been recently announced as our partners to provide the needed technology solution and support for the RTR. 

How can Canadians leverage real-time payments?

The launch of RTR will benefit Canadians in many ways. For example, you’ll be able to pay rent to a landlord immediately. Your landlord doesn’t need to wait for your cheque to clear or for the money to be available for use in his/her account. The bonus is that you’ll also be able to include, along with your payment, the data that you would include on a cheque, such as month and apartment number. The RTR will also make possible the ability to make a down payment on a property in one click instead of having to physically visit the bank to pick up a paper bank draft. In the case of an emergency, you’ll be able to receive money in seconds from your insurer to cover damages – which is such an important benefit in a time of need.

Payments Canada is committed to learning from Canadians and our global counterparts – and sharing our expertise in payments – to continue to innovate and offer the best payments solutions. Join us to learn more about the future-state of payments, register here to attend Canada’s premiere payments conference, The Payments Canada SUMMIT, online May 31- June 4, 2021.

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