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U.S. Consumers Demand Choice in How They Pay, but Often Still Choose Cash

December 5 — In a digital-first world, the importance of cash within the payments ecosystem remains strong based on the many unique features of the tried-and-true greenback.

That’s the underlying message from Cardtronics’ 2018 Health of Cash Study. Now in its fourth year, the study analyzed the results of a June 2018 online survey, conducted by Edelman Intelligence, and found that in making in-person retail payments, U.S. consumers:

  • Want to preserve the right to choose the payment method that best fits their situation
  • Often choose cash, a payment form that carries certain intrinsic benefits beyond the value on the notes themselves

“The primary conclusions from the Health of Cash Study are that U.S. consumers do not want to be told how they should pay for the things and services they acquire,” said Brian Bailey, Cardtronics executive vice president and managing director – North America. “In looking at their payment options, consumers see unique benefits in case as more than just a store of value — they consider cash to be an important part of the social safety net, a critical tool in emergencies, and an overall great way to pay for many of life’s special moments.”

Other findings from the study include:

The freedom to choose

  • 92 percent of consumers crave choice in how they pay, and two-thirds do not like stores or restaurants to limit cash acceptance.
  • 73 percent of consumers use cash regularly despite an increase in the number of digital payment apps and mobile payment solutions vying for attention.

While technology evolves, cash use remains constant

  • 94 percent of consumers said they are likely to use cash in the next six months.
  • New digital payment options are not significantly shifting U.S. consumers’ payment behavior — mobile and app-based payments are primarily shifting form factors, from card to phone, without significantly impacting cash payments.
  • 7 in 10 people prefer to use cash to pay back a friend, and 65 percent prefer to receive cash from a friend when owed money despite the rise of mobile P2P payment options, which has increased in use but still lag cash in reported use and preference.
  • 81 percent of digital users, and 84 percent of all respondents, try to keep cash on hand always.

Cash is the only payment options always available

  • More than 9 in 10 respondents think that cash is essential for those who do not have a checking or savings account.
  • Two-thirds believe laws and ordinances should restrict retailers and restaurants from rejecting cash payments.
  • Approximately 95 percent believe cash is a good way to teach children about personal finance.
  • 61 percent of consumers use cash to help them stay on budget.

Full survey results are available here.

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