The 2017 Health of Cash Study repeatedly finds that consumers continue to value choice in their payment and spending options. Consumers also continue to use cash as part of their broader payment mix.
Cash has an important place in Americans’ wallets and hearts, according to the Cardtronics Health of Cash survey. While people are adding digital options to their payments toolkit, there is compelling evidence cash has formed a durable and enduring bond with American consumers, who embrace choice rather than cashless in the way they pay.
Cardtronics partnered with Edelman Intelligence, an independent market research company, to conduct the Health of Cash Study, based on a nationally representative survey of 1,000 U.S. adults. The Health of Cash research program is an annual examination of consumer payments behavior in America.
Consumer payment behavior favors cash
The Health of Cash survey tracks consumer payment behavior both in terms of which payment methods people have used in the past six months, as well as which is their most preferred. In both cases, the data is clear that cash usage is deeply woven into the fabric of Americans’ payment behavior. Regarding the percent of the population using each payment type for either purchases or person-to-person (P2P) payments in the last six months:
91 percent used Cash
72 percent used Debit card
68 percent used Credit card
51 percent used Digital (e.g. mobile wallet, P2P apps, retailer apps)
Cash, which notably remains the most commonly used form of payment, continues to play a meaningful and often leading role among the full range of cash, card and digital payment options. When asked “Which is your most preferred payment method?” consumers selected cash as their second most-preferred method. When asked to choose which payment method best delivers the benefits of convenience and ease-of-use, consumers (38 percent and 44 percent, respectively) chose cash.
Attributes of cash – convenient, easy to use, and safe
“After convenience, people continue to be highly concerned about payment safety, with 84 percent describing themselves as worried about data security,” said Tom Pierce, chief marketing officer, Cardtronics. “Cash is once again identified as best, this time by 48 percent of survey respondents asked to choose the safest way to pay. And when the attribute is privacy, cash wins again, with 60 percent of consumers, a clear majority selecting cash as the top choice.”
Cash also continues to resonate with consumers when making smaller, low-value purchases. According to the 2017 survey results, the vast majority (82 percent) of people agree that they use cash for smaller items while they use other payment options for larger, more expensive items. And taking a closer look at demonstrated consumer behavior, the 2017 Health of Cash Study specifically finds that 68 percent of people use cash for purchases under 10 Dollars and 55 percent of people use cash for purchases under 20 Dollars.
Freedom to choose: Consumers want cash and multiple ways to pay
“The notion that consumers want to be limited to cashless payments, or that digital payments are overtaking cash is not consistent with consumer behavior,” said Brian Bailey, Cardtronics Managing Director – North America. “The 2017 Health of Cash Study proves that consumers like and demand choice when they pay – with 90 percent using at least two payment methods a month, and 66 percent using three – making a cashless society contrary to the will of the people.”
Based on the survey results, provided consumers have the freedom to choose, the rise of digital payments seems unlikely to dispel cash due to the enduring bond it has with consumers overall. The 2017 Health of Cash Study found that 89 percent of people like having the ability to use a variety of payment methods, and 82 percent of consumers would miss cash if it went away.
What’s more, the overall desire for choice is reflected in consumers’ feelings toward cashless establishments. Across all consumers, 61 percent admitted they get upset when establishments don’t accept cash, regardless of their payment preference, and 66 percent think payment technology is moving too fast toward digital payments.
Millennials: Proponents of both digital and cash payments
Once again examining P2P payments, millennials seem to drive both the growth of cashless digital and the health of cash. In their response to the “most preferred payment method” question, millennials provide compelling evidence of the continued resilience of cash. Millennials’ top choice was cash (29 percent), followed in a close grouping by debit card (26 percent), digital (25 percent), then credit card (17 percent) and finally checks (3 percent).