Potential Benefits, Costs, and Legal Issues
GAO-02-938: Published: Sep 25, 2002. Publicly Released: Oct 25, 2002.
The U.S. payment system is a large and complex system of people, institutions, rules, and technologies that transfer monetary value and related information. The nation's payment system transfers an estimated $3 trillion dollars each day--nearly one third of the U.S. gross domestic product. Currently, settlement--the final step in the transfer of ownership involving the physical exchange of payment or securities--occurs only during the business week. Some retailers, however, generate approximately half their weekly sales on weekends--when depository and other financial institutions generally are closed--receiving cash, checks, and electronic payments that are not credited to their accounts until at least the next business day. Weekend settlement of financial transactions would provide small benefits to retailers and consumers, and little, if any, benefit to the economy as a whole. Because payment system actors and processes are interdependent, implementing weekend settlement would require payment service providers that clear and settle retail and wholesale payments to open on weekends, resulting in significantly increased operational costs. Although there are no direct federal prohibitions against weekend settlement, state laws that are not preempted by federal laws or regulations providing for weekend settlement could interfere with development of a uniform, national 7 day settlement system.