Episode 489: The Invisible Plumbing Of Our Economy : Planet Money Why does it take days to send money electronically?
NPR logo Episode 489: The Invisible Plumbing Of Our Economy

Episode 489: The Invisible Plumbing Of Our Economy

Oyvind Solsatd/Flickr
Old pipes.
Oyvind Solsatd/Flickr

Note: This episode originally ran in 2013.

Back in 2013, we made a T-Shirt. And as you might remember, we made that T-Shirt with money raised on Kickstarter.

It turns out the money collected on Kickstarter is handled by Amazon. Great, we figure: This is the company that will sell you anything on the planet and get it you you the next day. And what we need in this case isn't even a thing, really. We just need Amazon's bank to send money electronically to a checking account at Chase bank. It's just information traveling over wires. How long could it take: A minute? An hour?

It took five days.

Before the money could land in our bank account, it had to go through a 40-year-old program— the Automated Clearing House.


On today's show: Why are the invisible pipes that move money around America so slow? And why are the ones in England so much faster? And is it finally changing?

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