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Cash Won’t Die: Nearly half of U.S. adults pay with cash for small purchases

  • With digital, mobile, and contactless options, the U.S still weights heavily on cash.
  • Debit cards have replaced a significant percentage of cash spend.
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Cash Won’t Die: Nearly half of U.S. adults pay with cash for small purchases

With all the advances in digital payments, Americans still like paying for small purchases with cash. Nearly half of U.S. adults (49 percent) use cash for purchases under $10, according to CreditCards.com.

Things aren't much different when you look at rewards credit cardholders, either. 43 percent use cash as their primary payment method while 31 percent favor debit and 26 percent prefer credit.

Rewards credit cardholders cite different reasons for their preference of cash. 40 percent go with greenbacks because they find it easier or quicker. Consumers say they prefer cash because of concerns about credit card debt (24 percent), stores having credit card minimums or fees for small purchases (14 percent), no incentive to (11 percent) or it’s rude (5 percent).

Generational differences in payment preferences

The media is used to talking about Millennials as being credit averse. But among rewards cardholders, Millennials are the most likely to use a credit card for small purchases (33 percent). The numbers drop to 24 percent of Gen Xers (ages 39-54) and 22 percent of Baby Boomers (ages 55-73). Higher earners and those with more education are more likely to reach for a credit card in these instances, as well.

Transaction speed

Interestingly, people say they prefer cash because it's faster. But only 39 percent of rewards credit cardholders have uses mobile payments and 14 percent have used contactless card.

People who have used mobile payments and contactless are less likely to pay with cash (38 percent) than those who haven't (46 percent). Contactless cards are currently undergoing rollouts many of the major public transportation systems and history has shown that consumers are more likely to start using them after

The U.S. has one of the slowest adoption rates of contactless payments in the world. More than half (53 percent) of American rewards cardholders claim they don’t have any contactless cards and 22 percent are not sure.

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