Introduction to the United States

An overview of the US's currency, population and key statistics.

Cash currency

The dollar is the official currency of the United States. The Federal Reserve is currently responsible for issuing paper currency in seven denominations, encompassing $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 banknotes. Notably, the issuance of higher denomination banknotes, such as $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 bills, has been discontinued. Nevertheless, these banknotes maintain their status as legal tender and may still be encountered in circulation. In addition to paper currency, the Fed also mints coins with various values, encompassing 1¢ (penny), 5¢ (nickel), 10¢ (dime), 25¢ (quarter), and 50¢ (half dollar).

Digital currency

The United States is currently actively investigating the viability of introducing a digital version of the dollar using a concept referred to as a central bank digital currency (CBDC). A recent executive order by President Joe Biden regarding digital assets underscores the urgency in exploring and creating a potential CBDC, as long as it aligns with the country's core interests. This information is detailed in an accompanying document issued by the White House. It is important to highlight that, as of now, the United States has not formally launched an official digital currency.


The United States had an estimated population of 331,002,651 as of mid-2020, according to UN data. A subsequent analysis by Worldometer of the most recent UN data indicated that the population had increased to approximately 332,277,970 as of February 26, 2021, with 82.8% living in urban areas, mainly New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. 

Examining the latest UN data, the US population is projected to increase to approximately 339,996,563 by the middle of 2023. This estimate accounts for roughly 4.23% of the global population and situates the United States as the world's third-most populous nation, encompassing both sovereign territories and dependencies.


The United States does not designate an official language at the federal level. However, English assumes the role of the predominant and unofficial national language. It serves as the primary means of communication for a substantial majority of the US population, with roughly 78.5% of people using it within their households. In the realm of linguistic diversity, Spanish emerges as the second-most widely spoken language in the United States, with approximately 13.2% of the population using it at home. It is worth noting that specific states in the country do formally declare English as their official language.

Key statistics

According to data provided by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the country's actual gross domestic product expanded by 2.9% year on year in the fourth quarter of 2022. This followed real GDP growth of 3.2% in the third quarter. The BEA further noted an annual increase of 2.4% in real GDP in the second quarter of 2023 and 2.0% growth in the first quarter.

Offering insights into future projections, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that real GDP will expand by 3.1% in 2022. This estimate predominantly hinges on the upsurge in consumer spending and heightened demand for services. Notably, the GDP growth projections for 2023 and 2024 have been upwardly revised to 2.2% and 1.5%, respectively.

Internet and mobile phone trends

In 2021, around 99% of individuals aged 18 to 29 in the United States were active Internet users, closely followed by other age demographics. The nation boasted approximately 298.8 million internet users as of January 2021, reflecting an increase of 11 million (3.7%) from 2020. The penetration rate stood at 90% in January 2020. Concurrently, within the same year, 72.7% of the population possessed smartphones.

 The US is projected to maintain its status as a significant global online market in 2023, with an anticipated internet penetration rate of approximately 92%. In 2022, the number of internet users in the country reached 299 million. Following the global trend, the US smartphone penetration rate has shown consistent growth, rising to 92% by 2023.

E-commerce statistics

Benefitting from robust internet connectivity, widespread banking accessibility, and high smartphone adoption rates, the United States faces few obstacles in establishing the groundwork for a thriving e-commerce market. However, fierce competition prevails within this landscape. The average annual revenue per paying user in the country had surged to $1,804 as of 2020. Concerning cross-border e-commerce, a significant share of transactions originates from both China and the United Kingdom.

 Recent data from EMarketer underscores that 66% of the US population possessed active bank accounts in 2021, while 70% of this cohort held credit cards.

Summary of fiscal policy

The prevailing fiscal strategy in the United States is oriented towards achieving a substantial deficit reduction that surpasses $1.3 trillion, signifying the most notable year-on-year decrease in the nation's history. This result emanates from a vigorous economic expansion propelled by the American Rescue Plan, along with a systematic curtailment of pandemic-related emergency spending.

 Within the US fiscal policy landscape, uncertainty presents a significant hurdle. To address this challenge, a novel method of assessing fiscal uncertainty has been proposed, employing the dispersion of Federal Budget Balance forecasts from Consensus Economics. This inventive metric establishes a predictive marker that integrates unforeseen adjustments in fiscal stance. Notable benefits of this measurement include its immediate accessibility and independent nature, unburdened by specific modelling requirements.

 Another challenge pertains to tackling long-term fiscal concerns while fostering investments conducive to economic growth and reducing deficits. President Biden's strategy involves revamping the tax framework to ensure equitable contributions from corporations and the wealthiest individuals. Envisioned outcomes involve cost alleviation for families, continued bottom-up and middle-out economic growth, and establishing a sustainable fiscal trajectory for the nation's future.


How people pay in the United States

An overview of how people in the US choose to make payments.

Traditional payment methods

The primary traditional payment methods used in the US


A Visa credit/debit card is a financial payment card issued by banks or financial institutions. It allows users to make purchases, withdraw cash, and be used online and in person. Visa's processing network can handle over 65,000 transaction messages per second.


Mastercard is a worldwide payment network that links financial institutions, merchants, and individuals, facilitating seamless transactions. This renowned company provides a range of credit and debit cards issued through partner banks. Depending on the specific bank, customers may enjoy supplementary benefits such as rewards programs, cashback offers, and insurance coverage.

American Express

American Express cards encompass a range of payment options provided by the multinational financial services corporation, American Express Company. The Amex card portfolio includes diverse options like credit cards, charge cards, and prepaid cards. Renowned for their broad acceptance among merchants, these cards grant cardholders access to various advantages, including perks, rewards programs, travel benefits, and dedicated customer service assistance.

Alternative payment methods (APMs)

Alternative payment methods

Apple Pay

Apple Pay, a mobile payment service from Apple Inc., allows users to make in-person, online, and in-app payments. It replaces chip and PIN transactions at contactless terminals.


PayPal is a frequently used digital payment system that allows clients to use their PayPal accounts, debit/credit cards, or bank accounts. Customers use PayPal for secure online shopping and to send/receive money.

Google Pay

Google Pay is a digital wallet and payment service developed by Google. It allows users to make secure payments using their mobile devices or computers. It supports various payment methods, offers compatibility across different devices, and provides features like loyalty program integration and transit ticketing. Google Pay prioritises security and convenience with tokenisation and biometric authentication. It has expanded to include digital banking services and continues to evolve.

Amazon Pay

With Amazon Pay, consumers can easily pay for their purchases on the website using the information they have stored with Amazon. It eliminates the need for them to set up a new account with a different merchant. In addition, they can also make purchases at restaurants and stores using the app.


Venmo serves as a mobile payment platform enabling individuals to transfer funds to each other through a mobile app or web interface. It offers the option for users to connect their bank accounts or cards to facilitate transaction funding. Additionally, users have the choice to retain funds within their Venmo account for future use in transactions.

Accepting payments in the United States

A guide to accepting payments in the US.

How to accept online payments in the United States

Before accepting online payments, you must determine which methods you prefer. Then you can choose a payment gateway provider, a service that authorises and processes online payments with their specific system. 

 Although there are plenty of payment gateway options in the United States, the general process for online payments typically involves an acquirer, issuer, retailer, and cardholder in the following steps:

  1. The cardholder initiates a payment by presenting their payment card to the retailer to purchase goods or services.

  2. The retailer sends the payment details to the acquirer, who processes the payment request and sends it to the payment scheme (such as Mastercard or Visa).

  3. The payment scheme sends the payment request to the issuer (such as a bank or licensed issuer) who issued the card to the cardholder.

  4. The issuer checks if the cardholder has enough funds to complete the transaction and approves or declines the payment request. If the payment is approved, the issuer sends an authorisation code to the payment scheme.

  5. The payment scheme sends the authorisation code to the acquirer, which then sends it to the retailer, completing the transaction.

How long does an international payment from the United States take?

The payment processing time may vary depending on the method and the recipient's bank. For instance, online money transfers through platforms like PayPal can quickly and conveniently send money to multiple destinations. 

  •  Bank debit/credit cards: International payments with bank debit or credit cards may take a few minutes to a few hours, depending on bank processing times.

  • Online money transfers: Platforms like PayPal can process international payments within minutes to hours, depending on the service and destination country.

  • Wire transfers: Traditional bank-to-bank transfers via SWIFT or wire may take one to five business days or longer, depending on the destination country, intermediary banks, and transaction requirements.


Merchant fees

Merchant fees for online payments in the United States can vary depending on the payment method and the merchant services provider used. Here are some examples of typical merchant fees for online payments in the United States:

  • Credit and debit cards: Merchant fees for accepting online credit and debit card payments can range according to the transaction amount. It also varies depending on the type of card used and the merchant services provider.

  • Bank transfers: Bank transfer fees can vary depending on the bank used, with some banks charging a flat fee per transaction and others charging a percentage of the transaction amount.

Other fees

Other fees surrounding online payments in the United States include charges incurred by merchants, payment processors, and financial institutions involved in the payment processing chain. Below are some common fees:

  •  Interchange fees: Interchange fees are charges paid by merchants' banks to cardholders' banks to cover the costs of processing card transactions. These fees are usually based on a percentage of the transaction value and can vary depending on the type of card used and the merchant's industry.

  • Payment gateway fees: Payment gateway providers charge a fee for processing transactions on their platform, which may be a percentage of the transaction value or a flat fee per transaction.

  • Cross-border fees: If a merchant accepts payments from customers outside the country, they may be subject to additional fees for cross-border transactions, including currency conversion fees and international processing fees.

  • Merchant discount rate: A processing fee that merchants are charged for transactions made using credit or debit cards. This fee generally falls within 1% to 3% of the total transaction amount.

Security challenges of online payments in the United States

The United States faces multiple security challenges in its online payment realm. These include technical glitches, security vulnerabilities, transaction disputes, and increased costs. Cyber-attacks spiked during the pandemic, causing financial distress and disruptions. Mobile payment systems encounter security issues such as malware detection and fraud prevention.

 Combating these challenges involves a national cybersecurity agency, critical infrastructure protection, and a response plan. Compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is crucial. Financial institutions proactively counter financial crime threats while improving customer experiences and adhering to updated regulations.

Key sectors and industries in the United States

According to the IBISWorld Market Research Report, the top 10 industries in the United States are:


Over the past five years, the US hospital industry revenue has experienced a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.6%. In 2023, there was a marginal 0.3% increase, resulting in a total of $1.4 trillion in revenue, with profits at 0.8%. The battle against the coronavirus pandemic has presented significant challenges for hospitals. Before the pandemic, factors such as increasing incomes, improved access to insurance, and the healthcare needs of the ageing population had maintained patient volumes. However, the pandemic has placed unprecedented strain on hospitals, affecting their infrastructure, labour force, expenses, and service models.

Pharmaceuticals Wholesaling

Revenue in the US pharmaceutical wholesaling sector is projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.3% to $1.3 trillion between 2018 and 2023. In 2023 alone, a notable 10.2% increase is expected, culminating in a profit margin of 7.5%. The demand for medications has been driven by an ageing population, and this demand is further compounded by the rising median age of the US population. The increasing number of individuals aged 65 and above, especially from the substantial baby boomer generation, has contributed to this upward trajectory.

Health and Medical Insurance

Health and medical insurance revenue posted a CAGR of 2.3% over the past five years, reaching a total of $1.2 trillion. However, in 2023 alone, there is an expected decrease of 0.7%, coinciding with an increase in profit margins to 8.3%. This trend is influenced by the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Within the United States, the pandemic led to a substantial 121.0% surge in the unemployment rate. Social-distancing measures impacted consumer spending and prompted the temporary closure of nonessential businesses, resulting in reduced income for businesses and individuals, generating a negative demand spiral. Federal lawmakers passed the CARES Act to counteract this impact, which allocated funds for various measures to revitalise the economy.


The commercial banking industry has grown at a steady rate of 3.2% over the past five years. The industry's profit margins are expected to increase to 38.2% this year. The Federal Reserve has been increasing interest rates to control inflation. This has been caused by the global energy crisis and the supply chain issues. In 2022, the central bank started to raise its rates after it had lowered them in response to the pandemic.

New Car Dealers

New car dealers have recorded a CAGR of 0.4% in revenue over the past five years. However, there has been a decline of 2.8% in revenue in 2023 to a total of $1.1 trillion. Simultaneously, profit margins are projected to reach 1.7% of revenue. The semiconductor shortage significantly contributed to this trend, which has substantially elevated car prices. The pandemic disrupted semiconductor production across Asia in 2020, causing a shortage of new vehicles and driving their prices to unprecedented levels. This surge persisted through 2022. Although lower car production led to dealer inventory shortages, the price surge boosted sales in 2021. However, the price hikes tested market elasticity and led to a decline in sales volume. As a response, consumers began turning to used vehicles for relief, but this increased demand caused used vehicle prices to rise as well.

Life Insurance and Annuities

Revenue from life insurance and annuities demonstrated a CAGR of 2.5% over the past five years to a total of $1.1 trillion. Notably, there has been a growth of 3.2% in 2023 alone, contributing to an escalation in profit margins to 21.6%. This trajectory has been influenced by financial responses to the pandemic. The onset of the global health crisis in early 2020 led to significant turmoil in financial markets. Both equity and bond markets reacted negatively to the spread of the virus. Investors responded by selling equities. Simultaneously, a global liquidity crisis emerged due to soaring demand for the dollar. To alleviate the widespread financial turbulence and global liquidity concerns, the Federal Reserve executed interest rate reductions in 2020.


Public Schools

US public schools recorded a CAGR of 2.4% in revenue over the past five years, reaching $995.7 billion. There has been a growth of 1.8% in 2023 alone, though it was accompanied by a loss in profit at -1.4%. Notably, increased economic activity has contributed to higher tax revenue. In the realm of federal funding for elementary and secondary schools, despite being relatively small compared with local and state contributions, there was stagnation after 2010. However, the advent of pandemic-related stimulus measures led to unprecedented federal funding. It is important to highlight that public school funding primarily hinges on support from local and state governments.

Retirement and Pension Plans

Retirement and pension plans recorded an annualised revenue growth rate of 2.5% since 2018. An approximate growth of 1.1% is projected in the current year, leading to an estimated total of $937.4 billion. However, profit margins are expected to decrease to 9.6%. Notably, defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, have gained prominence due to their cost advantages for employers.

Gasoline and Petroleum

The US gasoline and petroleum wholesaling sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of 2.1% between 2018 and 2023, culminating in a total value of $928.0 billion. However, a decline of 4.8% is foreseen for this year, coinciding with an anticipated profit of 1.7%. A noteworthy factor impacting this sector's performance is the volatility of oil prices. The performance of petroleum wholesalers tends to closely follow the world price trends of crude oil, as this price serves as a representative indicator of the global oil demand.

Information and Technology

The US information and technology sector has a substantial global economic impact, characterised by rapid expansion and ongoing transformation. Noteworthy figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) indicate an 18% increase between the first quarter of 2020 and the corresponding period in 2022, while the core tech sub-industry (comprising data processing, internet publishing, and information services) saw an impressive 47% growth.

Imports and Exports

The main exports of the United States included refined petroleum ($83.3 billion), petroleum gas ($70.9 billion), crude oil ($67.6 billion), cars ($55.4 billion), and integrated circuits ($51.3 billion). These exports were primarily destined for Canada ($259 billion), Mexico ($247 billion), China ($151 billion), Japan ($71.8 billion), and South Korea ($66.4 billion).

 Conversely, the key imports to the United States encompassed cars ($139 billion), crude oil ($120 billion), computers ($102 billion), broadcasting equipment ($101 billion), and packaged medicaments ($86.3 billion). Predominant sources of these imports were China ($530 billion), Mexico ($361 billion), Canada ($355 billion), Germany ($135 billion), and Japan ($128 billion).

Regulation in the United States

The regulatory environment of the US.

Summary of the regulatory environment in the United States

To maintain fairness and operational smoothness in business ventures in the United States, entrepreneurs are required to comply with a range of laws and regulations, which include:

  •  Company law: This includes regulations governing companies' establishment, operations, and dissolution.

  • Employment law: This includes regulations governing employment contracts, working conditions, and employee rights.

  • Product liability law: This includes regulations governing the legal liabilities and responsibilities of manufacturers, sellers, distributors, and other parties involved in the production and sale of goods.

  • Intellectual property law: This includes regulations governing copyrights, patents, and trademarks. 

  • Competition law: This includes regulations governing competition and antitrust matters to promote fair competition.

  • Consumer protection law: This includes regulations governing the rights of consumers, product safety, and advertising standards.

  • Data protection law: This includes regulations concerning the collection, use, and storage of personal data.

 Like in many other nations, companies in the United States operate under a range of legal frameworks concerning corporate governance matters. These encompass state laws and federal statutes, alongside regulations from governmental entities like the US Securities and Exchange Commission and self-regulatory bodies such as stock exchanges that enforce requirements on companies with listed and traded securities. State corporate law rules stem from the state of incorporation and company organisational documents. Each state possesses its distinct corporate code, with Delaware's General Corporation Law predominantly adopted by large, publicly traded corporations due to Delaware's widespread incorporation among US public firms.

How card payments are regulated in the United States

In the United States, legal frameworks governing card payments encompass consumer protection and financial services. The Federal Trade Commission enforces laws safeguarding consumers against unfair or deceptive practices, extending to payment and billing matters. Businesses are required by law to secure authorisation for charges made to customers' credit cards, debit cards, phone bills, and other accounts. These rules apply equally to mobile payments. Furthermore, charging individuals for negative options, automatic shipments, or continuity programs without explicit consent is prohibited.

 Additionally, the Federal Reserve Board contributes to card payment regulation through its supervision of payment systems and its authority to establish rules pertinent to payment services. For instance, the board has issued regulations on check collection and fund availability (Regulation CC), interchange fees and routing for debit cards (Regulation II), and financial market utilities (Regulation HH).

Do I need a licence?

Yes. Most small businesses in the United States necessitate a blend of licences and permits issued by federal and state authorities for lawful operation. The prerequisites and costs differ depending on your business operations, geographical location, and governmental regulations. Obtaining a federal licence or permit is essential if your business activities fall under the jurisdiction of a federal agency.

Payment solutions in the United States

An overview of how to accept payments from customers in the US

Payment gateways and providers in the United States

The evolution of payment methods in the United States has necessitated merchants to adapt to diverse transaction types. Consequently, businesses are seeking solutions to cater to customer demands. APEXX, leveraging its payment orchestration layer (POL), assists by facilitating connections between payment methods and banks.

 A notable advantage of POL is its support for diverse payment methods, complemented by features that enhance business efficiency.

 The integration of APEXX's payment processing capabilities into existing systems is seamless, thanks to the company's pre-built plugins and APIs. This enables easy integration with various platforms like e-commerce shops and POS terminals, minimising disruptions and enhancing operational fluidity.

 APEXX's payment processing solutions empower US companies to process more transactions and handle a range of payment methods. The adaptable framework empowers them to deliver improved customer service.

Cheapest payment solutions in the United States

To reduce fees in their payment stacks, merchants in the United States can implement the following strategies:

  •  Negotiate fees: Merchants should negotiate with their payment providers for better rates, including transaction fees, and monthly fees.

  • Choose a suitable payment provider: Merchants should research and compare different payment providers to select the one that offers competitive rates and low fees. 

  • Use alternative payment methods: Merchants can reduce fees by using alternative payment methods such as e-wallets or bank transfers instead of traditional card payments.

  • Prevent chargebacks: To avoid chargebacks and additional fees, merchants can offer clear product descriptions, prompt customer complaint resolution, and refunds when necessary.

  • Implement fraud prevention measures: Merchants should adopt fraud prevention measures to prevent fraudulent transactions, which can lead to chargebacks and additional fees.

  • Monitor payment processing fees: Merchants should keep a close eye on their payment processing fees and use payment analytics tools to track their expenses and identify areas where they can reduce costs.

 Merchants can also consider using payment aggregators such as APEXX, which allow them to accept multiple payment methods through a single platform, reducing the need for multiple payment providers and lowering costs.

BNPL in United States

Buy now, pay later (BNPL) is a brief-term financing approach that enables consumers to acquire items and settle payments through interest-free instalments, also called a point-of-sale instalment loan. The US BNPL lending market was valued at a few billion dollars in 2019. As of 2021, approximately 60% of consumers have used a BNPL service, with 46% still in repayment.

 Due to the increasing number of payment providers and the acceptance of BNPL, Merchants can benefit from using APEXX. This platform allows them to manage their operations and integrate various systems.

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