Cash remains tops in many consumer spending categories

When they need to repay someone, 4 out of 5 Americans prefer to use cash.

This and other findings from a new Cardtronics Inc. study reveal that despite having a wide array of choices in payment methods, U.S. consumers continue to use cash for expenses ranging from P2P payments to convenience store purchases to tipping and more.

The survey also uncovered surprising facts about how millennials use cash, according to a press release from the company.

The study was compiled using results from a Cardtronics-sponsored survey conducted in late 2015 that polled more than 1,000 U.S. adults.

“Our survey data clearly shows that in a competitive payments environment, cash is a predominant payment form and sits atop multiple spending categories,” Cardtronics CMO Tom Pierce said in the release.

When asked what type of payment they’d used in various situations over the past year, respondents named a variety of methods, with cash ranking No. 1 in a number of scenarios. Consumers’ first and second preferences were as follows:

  • paying someone back: cash, 78 percent; check, 18 percent
  • convenience store purchases: cash, 63 percent; debit, 41 percent
  • snacks away from home: cash, 67 percent; debit, 37 percent
  • grocery store: cash, 52 percent; debit, 51 percent
  • small business: cash, 49 percent; credit, 43 percent
  • restaurant: cash, 53 percent; credit, 48 percent
  • tipping: cash, 78 percent; credit, 27 percent

The Cardtronics survey findings also provided insights into how different demographic groups use cash.

“There is a myth in the marketplace that millennials have abandoned cash in favor of mobile and other digital payments,” Pierce said. It’s simply not true. … Millennials take an open-minded view of payments and cash plays a pivotal role in their payment choice mix.”

While more than half (57 percent) of millennials reported using a variety of payment methods, nearly half (45 percent) said that they’re more likely to pay more with cash now than they did a few years ago.

The survey also found that women are more likely than men (39 percent vs. 29 percent) to use cash as a means to manage their budget.

Additional survey findings and infographics are available online.

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