In U.S. Economy, Cash is Still a King Among Consumer Payments

Press Release
May 11, 2017
Even in a digital age of virtual wallets, ecommerce, mobile payments, and online banking, 79% of U.S. consumers make monthly cash payments

Rockville (MD), May 11, 2017 — In important ways, cash remains king, according to key insights published in U.S. Consumer Payments Outlook Through 2020 , a brand new report by market research firm Packaged Facts.

In the wake of the great recession, consumers increasingly shifted to cash payments. Yet by 2014, the pendulum had begun to shift back. Still even today, consumers use cash more prevalently than any other payment option. Packaged Facts estimates that in 2016 some 79% of consumers made monthly cash payments despite the wide range of plastic and virtual alternatives.

Packaged Facts also found that a wide variety of Americans prefer cash, and even those who prefer another payment option still use cash frequently. Among the most interesting findings was that notoriously tech-trendy Millennials in the important 18-24 year old demographic comprised the largest share of people who prefer cash, at 38% based on Packaged Facts’ survey. Nearly a quarter of every other age group selected cash as their primary preference.

Debt management, privacy, and security were among the primary motivators many consumers cited in Packaged Facts’ survey for using cash. Many consumers also wish to avoid payment/card fees. Meanwhile, less than 10% of Americans use cash because they cannot quality for credit.

Further, cash is often favored for its versatility and convenience, especially for specific use cases such as P2P transfers and small-value transactions. Just as important, the average value of cash holdings—or the amount of cash a person is carrying with them—has grown.

“Even more so than checks, cash is confined to the physical world. Consumers do not use cash for online or automatic bill payments or online non-bill payments,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “It may be faster to swipe or tap a card. It’s arguably easier to press a button on your cellphone or keyboard. But cold hard cash still has its place, and it’s an important one that consumers not only use but also trust.”

So where and when is cash most likely to be used? According to the report, cash is among the most used payment for:

  • gifts and transfers to people
  • government and non-profit purchases
  • food and personal care supplies
  • auto- and vehicle-related purchases

Among the notable challenges for cash is that consumers are making fewer and fewer small dollar payments with cash—though cash remains popular even in many of these instances and cash still dominates small value-transactions. Packaged Facts estimates that cash is used for more than 50% of transactions under $25 and for more than 60% of purchases under $10.

The popularity of credit cards also proves a challenge. However, though many consumers prefer cards, cash remains the most preferred backup payment instrument. When asked what payment instrument they preferred if their primary option was unavailable, 55% of people who prefer checks, debit cards, or credit cards chose cash.

About “U.S. Consumer Payments Outlook Through 2020”

Packaged Facts’ U.S. Consumer Payments Outlook Through 2020 provides both trended consumer usage, behavior and attitude analysis on consumer payments and market sizes and forecasts through 2020 for key consumer payments instruments and methods. The report emphasizes 2007-2016 survey trending of consumer payment usage and behavior, segmented by payment instrument and method: credit card, debit card, prepaid card, cash, check, online and mobile payments, and P2P and money transfers, with demographic analysis.

View additional information about U.S. Consumer Payments Outlook Through 2020, including purchase options, the abstract, table of contents, and related reports at Packaged Facts’ website:

About Packaged Facts

Packaged Facts, a division of, publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer market topics, including consumer demographics and shopper insights, consumer financial products and services, consumer goods and retailing, consumer packaged goods, and pet products and services. Packaged Facts also offers a full range of custom research services. Reports can be purchased at our company website and are also available through

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