Still More Signs of Growing Consumer Unease with Cash

One in five not carrying cash in their wallet

June 23, 2017

Cash may not be king much longer.

A survey of consumers who have made digital purchases in the past year found that one in five said they were not currently carrying cash in their wallet.

Fully 46% said that they rarely or never use cash to make a purchase, and nearly as many, 39%, said their most recent cash transaction was made more than four days previous.

The American Express survey data is the latest sign of shifting consumer attitudes about cash, which in turn seems likely to affect attitudes about alternative payment systems, whether card-based or digital.

A Visa survey released earlier this month found parallel attitudes about cash, with 19% of smartphone users saying they preferred not to carry cash in their wallets.

But lack of enthusiasm for cash doesn't necessarily translate into guaranteed uptake of new payment options.

While mobile payments are growing rapidly in the US, with the transaction value estimated to more than double this year, the use of mobile payments is nowhere near a majority behavior.

eMarketer estimates that the total transaction value of mobile payments in the US will reach $62.49 billion this year, up from $27.67 billion in 2016. The number of mobile payments users, meanwhile, is projected to rise 32.4% to reach 50.8 million. At that level, that would make up just 24.3% of all smartphone users.

Use of digital wallets and mobile payments tends to skew young, signaling further growth in terms of adoption and transaction levels, but eMarketer’s projections only see the mobile payment penetration rate among smartphone users reaching 33.1% by 2020.

One in five (20%) consumers are currently not carrying any cash in their wallet and nearly half (46%) say they rarely or never use cash for making purchases. Four in 10 (39%) consumers report that the last time they used cash to make a purchase was four days ago or more.