Consumers and cash: A lasting love?

 In Blog

In a scene from the 1951 film noir classic, “His Kind of Woman,” adventuress Jane Russell enters gambler Robert Mitchum’s rented bungalow to find him pressing his pants (no doubt, this is the moment when she decides that he’s “Her Kind of Man”). Naturally, she comments on the unusual sight of a manly man ironing his own trousers. To which Mitchum says something to the effect of, “When I have money, I iron my money. When I’m broke, I iron my pants.”

I don’t know how many people habitually press their paper money, but if you’ve ever put a hot iron to a $20 bill to dry it out after accidentally sending it through the wash cycle, you might understand the impulse. There’s nothing quite like the feel of a nice, crisp, un-dogearred banknote hot off the ironing board.

The tactile nature of currency is just one of the attractions of folding money. We asked ATM industry members at random why people love cash — and how long the two will keep up up their regular rendezvous at ATMs the world over. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here are their thoughts …

When we ran our “Caught Without Cash” contest this spring, we asked consumers to share times they were in a jam because they didn’t have cash. We heard of many situations where a card just wouldn’t do — the farmer’s market, cash-only toll booths, garage sales and so on. While many solutions are arising to reduce the need for cash, we at MoneyPass don’t think cash will be going away anytime soon. We’re looking forward to providing consumers with nationwide, surcharge-free ATM access to their cash for many years to come!

— Colleen Roth, Marketing Manager, MoneyPass


In separate studies last year, the Federal Reserve found cash to have the highest consumer adoption (100 percent) and also reported that most consumers who prefer non-cash payments declared cash as their preferred backup. The takeaway: In a similar sense to math being the universal language, cash is the universal payment method — which explains the enduring attraction. While not yet true for mobile pay, with cash, “it just works” applies, and people like that.

— Tom Pierce, Chief Marketing Officer, Cardtronics.


Consumers love cash. It is universally accepted any time and everywhere, no matter what. That fact will not change anytime soon.  ATMs, for the last 45-plus years, have been the most efficient and convenient means of accessing cash for any form of account and will remain so for decades to come.

— Sam M. Ditzion, CEO, Tremont Capital Group


We may be moving towards a cashless society but will we ever truly achieve it? There are many arguments for it. The problem with all of them though is that they’re rational arguments. Our attachment to cash is not. Consumers will continue to use cash and an ATM is the most convenient place to get it.

— Larry Mackey, Prime Bank Equipment

In my experience, the heaviest users of cash tend to be on the lower end of the economic spectrum. They’re not paying for a cab with Uber or getting a Frappuccino with their Starbucks app. They are drawn to the physical nature of cash and like the security of knowing they have the funds in hand to pay for what they need.

It’s going to take years to get people to stop using cash completely simply because consumers like the security of having cash in their pocket. However, that day will come and as an industry we need to begin thinking about how we can build an ATM that offers a wide range of products and services to continue to remain relevant.

— George Sarantopoulos, CEO, Access One ATM


Consumer attachment to cash goes beyond facilitating on-the-spot transactions. There is a social life for cash. For instance, coins have helped us to learn about ancient societies. And a recent debate in Britain over the absence of women depicted on pound notes, as well as public interest over the adoption of polymers in several countries, suggest that the design of coins and bills tells something important about national identity.

The social features of cash thus challenge those of us researching payment systems to develop an understanding of ATMs that goes beyond economic or technological aspects, because, as long as we use cash, we will require cash machines.

— Bernardo Bátiz-Lazo, Departmental Chair in Business History and Bank Management, Bangor University, Wales

Despite all arguments to the contrary, cash will be with us for a very long time. There have been many attempts at cash alternatives, be they real seashells or virtual bitcoins, but in the end we just all love cash. To know that we can walk up to a machine and get the cash we need immediately, no questions asked, no coupons or vouchers but real cash, gives us all a sense of reality in an otherwise impersonal world.

— Richard Buckle, Founder and CEO, 
Pyalla Technologies LLC


From the hotdog vendor down the street to the register at Saks, everyone takes cash. If I have cash in my hand, I can see it, touch it, smell it, etc., and know that I am secure in the fact that if I want something, and have that amount of cash in my hands necessary to buy it, it’s mine.  The psychological feeling of having cash and using cash is something people in the payment industry discount way too often.

For an ATM manufacturer, though transaction volumes may decrease, the ATM is still going to be a focal point for many establishments.  Providing that convenience of having cash, and giving that option to their customers, is still going to be a valuable service for years to come and will continue to create a need for reliable and attractive hardware.

— Wes Dunn, Vice President of Sales, Genmega


photo courtesy nic mcphee | flickr
cupid illustrations | public domain

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