Cash may be king for businesses, but regular consumers are quickly dethroning paper money for more convenient payment methods. In fact, one in four Americans reports they rarely carry cash at all, whatsoever. In a world with PayPal, ApplePay, and credit cards abounding, is this really so surprising? The reasons for not carrying cash are plentiful and it seems the Millennial generation is at it again with disrupting the status quo.
Trending cashless across the board
More than 2,000 American adults were surveyed, and just 41% said they carry cash regularly. While one in four said they don’t carry cash often, that number jumped up to one in three for Millennial consumers. Instead, Millennials are choosing to put money on their credit cards more than any other age group from the study. Although Millennials carry cash the least, all age groups carried and used less cash than other forms of payment. One-quarter of respondents over the age of 55 said they never carry cash. This certainly isn’t the majority, but it’s still quite a high number when you consider cash used to be the premier form of payment not too long ago. One in six respondents reported they don’t use cash for purchases in a typical week. And when it comes to those who carry cash, it isn’t much. The average amount among respondents who said they carried cash was $25 at a time.
It’s not all that surprising that Millennials choose to use plastic over cash. If they’re cash strapped, which 62% Millennials say they live paycheck to paycheck, using a credit card for purchases is logical. If you don’t have the cash now, you can put the purchase on the card and pay it off when you do have the funds. Indeed, this is a slippery slope. You’ll always have to pay the amount you charged back, along with nasty interest fees if you don’t pay off your entire balance in time. However, some people who prefer credit could be using this payment method over carrying cash for credit card benefits. The credit card market is more competitive than ever, and increased cash back or other benefits could sway a potential credit user to choose one card over another. When you pay with cash, there’s no such thing as “cash back.” Many basic credit cards will offer anywhere from 1% to 3% cash back on all or certain purchases. Over the long-term, the cash back for those $7 lattes at Starbucks can start to add up. In this situation, using credit over cash is completely logical and will give you a better payout over time. What’s more, 44% of the adults surveyed said they are more likely to spend money if its in cash form. Twice as many people who were surveyed believed it was actually easier to keep track of their finances and how much they spend by using a credit card rather than cash. Therefore, using cash may be worse for your financial health than credit.
Convenience over everything
A simple fact about cash is that it isn’t very convenient. It can take up quite a bit of wallet space. And if you lose it, well, it’s likely gone forever. Sure, you can just as easily lose a debit or credit card. The risk there can be higher if you don’t freeze the account in time. But, the simple ability to freeze your account once you discover your card has been lost or stolen is a great feature. Many banks will even refund your money if charges on your card are proven to be fraudulent. In a lot of ways, carrying plastic is much more convenient than cash. Millennials echoed this sentiment, as 41% of those who responded said they think paying cash for an item is “inconvenient.” In today’s economy, they may be right.
Alternative methods of payment are more popular than ever. These types of payments can include anything from a debit or credit card to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or virtual wallets like Google Pay or Apple Pay. This is a logical evolution, as 95% of Americans shop online, and you can’t exactly insert cash into your desktop or smartphone. Many American shoppers prefer to shop from the comfort of their home, on the go, or with added benefits like fast price comparisons between online merchants. This has increased dependency on alternative methods of payment. What’s more, virtual wallets are making way for purchases to be easier than ever. Major retailers like Starbucks, Whole Foods, and even McDonald’s accept Apple Pay, along with literally millions of other stores. If you’ve never used Apple Pay, here’s how it works. You can link your credit or debit card to your Wallet app on the iPhone. Once linked, you can easily use your phone to make purchases. You simply wave your phone over the receiver (often found in the debit or credit card console), and Apple Pay makes the purchase directly from your credit or debit card. As if we don’t have our phones attached to our hips constantly, this makes purchasing goods incredibly easy. So while Millennials are definitely using less cash than other American generations, it’s for good reason. You can earn rewards, shop online, and even buy goods without your physical wallet on you. The United States may be trending cashless, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for streamlining the consumer experience.