As recently as a decade ago, the vast majority of our transactions were made via traditional forms of payment. Cash, cheque, credit card; all of these methods are still very much in use today, but increasingly a vast number of consumers are turning to forms of payment conducted and overseen digitally via the internet.

Today it is import to know what methods of online payment exist out there, as many businesses can benefit greatly when making or receiving payment. It is also important to know what form of payment is most convenient to your potential customer base.

The utter step-change in the way in which we pay for goods and services, transfer cash or make payments has been unprecedented. According to a recent survey by JPMorgan Chase & Co, physical banking levels are down a huge 30 percent compared to the same period last year, conversely matched by a 33 percent boost in the overall usage of digital banking applications. The vast majority of this activity is – as might have been guessed – driven by millennials.

It takes no stretch of the imagination to realise that this activity has been a direct result of the global upswing in internet usage, but which services are we using most for our payments and why? What does the future look like for the e-commerce realm?

Across the board, credit and debit cards are the most-used form of online payment. In the U.K in 2013 online debit and credit card volumes amounted to a gigantic 545 million and 424 million, respectively, however the simple entering of card details on an e-commerce site’s payment screen is fast becoming a defunct way of making a payment.

Instead, we use systems such as PayPal. Established as Confinity in 1998 and re-christened PayPal in 2001, the online banking company today allows around 169 million people in 203 countries and markets to transfer and hold funds in 26 currencies worldwide. Users supply their bank information and use PayPal as the middleman, thanks to its focus on security and online infrastructure that many banks simply cannot afford to do. Up until very recently, PayPal was a subsidiary of eBay, and the company rose up on the back of the online auction site, representing a huge volume of the site’s overall sales and solidifying its place as one of the best payment forms to be used for the buying and selling of goods online.

That’s not to say that PayPal is alone in the digital payments arena though. Take NETELLER, a service founded in 1999 and operated by Optimal Payments Limited. NETELLER has made quite a name for itself recently thanks to its lowered fees and VIP program, two aspects of the business that have appealed enormously to the customers of the blossoming online gaming industry. Online gaming, via sites such as MobileSlots.net and the like, has shot to global prominence in recent years as a more relaxed legal attitude to casino thrills has permeated legislatures worldwide. Players have, understandably, been searching for the best transfer deals; if you’ve just won some cash, you don’t want to give a percentage of it away to a digital payment giant.

But, as continually demonstrated in practically every industry, there is always an upstart looking to dethrone and re-constitute the business landscape, and in the online payment world that actor is Bitcoin. Truly twenty-first century in its conception and application, Bitcoin is a completely peer-to-peer payment technology with no ties to governments or banks. You can use it to purchase fiat currencies, but the issuance of the coins is undertaken solely by the network itself and is tied to mathematical proof, not the machinations of the banking industry.

Every single transaction, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, is added to a singular ledger that is nigh-impossible to manipulate and completely open source, and the encryption means are strong too, adding to its utterly public, safe and open-source nature. There are also very low fees, and users can pay via mobile payments via their Bitcoin wallet app, blasting away similar means of mobile payment currently being championed by tech giants Apple and Google. It’s also completely anonymous, meaning no I.D. or balance theft. Bitcoin, if it becomes trusted by businesses worldwide, could upend our entire approach to online payments, and indeed payments in general, given its ability to be used in practically every market and industry.

One could also touch on contactless payments. This doesn’t even require a consumer even dip into his/her wallet, but rather hold a mobile device up to a pay-point and payment is made. Although still limited to certain regions expect this method to flow thick and fast in the years to come.

It is a rollercoaster ride when you look at how far making a payment has come in the last 20 years. With all the competition and innovation flooding the industry it will be just as exciting to see where it goes.