Difference Between ACH and RTGS

Transfer and distribution systems constantly evolve, offering customers and credit seekers various options. Banks offer multiple plans for payments and settlements.


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Key Takeaways

  1. ACH (Automated Clearing House) is a batch processing system for electronic financial transactions, with transactions grouped and processed at specified intervals; RTGS (Real-Time Gross Settlement) processes high-value transactions individually and in real time.
  2. ACH transactions are generally lower in value, while RTGS transactions require a minimum threshold and are used for urgent, high-value transfers.
  3. ACH transactions are more suitable for everyday and recurring payments, whereas RTGS is designed for time-sensitive, large-sum transfers needing immediate settlement.


ACH (Automated Clearing House) transfers are batched and settled in batches, where transactions are grouped together and processed. RTGS (Real-Time Gross Settlement) transfers are settled in real-time, meaning that they are processed immediately and funds are transferred between banks instantly.


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ACH stands for Automatic Clearing House. It is a payment system introduced in the United States of America during the 1970s.

RTGS stands for Real-Time Gross Settlement and is the fastest way of transferring money. In this process, money from one Bank is transmitted in real-time and on a gross basis.


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonACHRTGS
Full-FormStands for Automatic Clearing HouseFrames for Real-Time Gross Settlement.
Time Taken2-3 Business days1 business day
Payment SystemSettlement for ACH is done in batchesSettlements are handled on an individual basis
RisksSuch payments might be vulnerable to delivery risksThe delivery risk is negligible. However, other frauds can happen.
ProcessThe net balance of credit vs debit is considered over central bank sheets.The settlement occurs without thinking about the net balance.
IdealThe ideal system for Repetitive payments, such as salary transfersRTGS find primary use in case of an urgent large amount of fees that need to be settled on a one-to-one basis.


What is ACH?

In 1970, the United Nations of America developed a payment system through an integrated network to facilitate instant payment with significantly reduced use of paper checks and bills. Gradually, the plan was adopted by several economies and evolved into a system of an electronically facilitated settlement system.

The ACH stands for Automated Clearing System, popularly recognized as the Electronic Clearing System. The settlements are managed by one centralized body, which in the case of the USA was NACHA or National Automated Clearing House System.

The footprint was introduced to provide solutions for large-volume repetitive payments in both the corporate and private sectors. It brought in a centralized system of payment via UID and structured guidelines for users of the service.

In simple terms, ACH is a system of electronic payment that enables you to transfer money from one bank account to another over a network dedicated to handling such charges in batches. ACH transfers are both in the form of deposits or payments.

When you pay bills to organizations or individuals, you register an ACH payment as a debit transfer.

It is a person to a personal form of payment, usually free of additional charges and speedy. The processing time is generally up to 2-3 business days.


What is RTGS?

RTGS, or Real Time Gross Settlement, is a payment system allowing you to make instant payments. Payments made via RTGS are settled on a one-to-one basis and not based on overall credit to a debit balance.

RTGS payments are ideal for interbank transfers of large amounts. The charges for RTGS transactions vary according to the Bank. However, most central banks have assigned an upper limit for the rate that can be charged.

US Fedwire set up the first-ever system of RTGS transfer in the 1970s. Today most RTGS transactions are headed by central banks.

Hence the primary benefit of RTGS transfers is that the delivery risk factor associated with high-value payments is significantly improved. However, such transactions are vulnerable to digital fraud, such as phishing and data theft.

To be able to conduct an RTGS transfer, both banks must be involved in core banking facilities. It is an ideal mode of transfer for low-volume, high-value transactions.


Main Differences Between ACH and RTGS

  1. ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, while RTGS stands for Real-time Gross Settlement.
  2. ACH allows electronic payments between banks over a centralized network, while RTGS allows real-time funds settlement between Banks.
  3. The system of ACH settlement is dependent on the net credit/debit balance system, while RTGS is independent of the system.
  4. Hence, the settlement of payments, in the case of ACH, happens in bundles, while RTGS settlements are dealt with independently.
  5. ACH payments are generally free of cost. Hence they are suitable for high-volume, low-value payments, while RTGS payments are usually charged; hence they are ideal for low-volume, high-value payments.
  6. Payments for ACH are usually settled within 2-3 business days, while RTGS settlements happen within 1 day.
  1. https://www.cribfb.com/journal/index.php/amfbr/article/view/289
  2. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm?abstractid=1485141#page=88
  3. http://www.bankandcredit.nbp.pl/content/2003/2003_04/tochmanski.pdf
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