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Thursday, May 30, 2024

7 in 10 Americans Believe the U.S. Is Becoming a Cashless Society

Americans Believe Us Is Becoming Cashless Society Study
Jon McDonald

Written by: Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald
Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald brings more than 15 years of journalism expertise to CardRates.com. Informing financial consumers about emerging trends and companies making an impact in the industry, Jon is most knowledgeable in the areas of budgeting, credit card rewards, and responsible credit use; he strives to bring that experience to readers worldwide. Jon has a passion for writing and editing, and his articles have appeared in publications produced by The New York Times.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Reviewed by: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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Cash is king, as the age-old adage proclaims. Nothing beats cash in hand when it comes to spending. Yet American consumers are increasingly turning away from currency in favor of cards and phone-based payments, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is this a good thing? We wanted to know what Americans think about going cashless and how many still adhere to the mindset that “cash is king,” so we surveyed over 1,000 people nationwide to see what they had to say.

America’s Views on Cash

While 70% of Americans surveyed think the United States is becoming a cashless society, most don’t think that’s a good thing: 77% of respondents say they don’t think the U.S. should go fully cashless.

Top statistics on cashless society and cash use among Americans graphic by CardRates

That being said, cash is certainly diminishing in its use among Americans, especially among younger ones, as 2 in 5 Americans surveyed said they don’t usually carry cash, and 1 in 10 Gen Zers say they never use cash. This may be why 3 in 5 Americans say they believe cash is no longer king.

Why is currency fading in popularity? Top reasons include the ease of carrying a card, hoping to earn rewards points, no need for cash, concerns about theft, and avoiding a bulky wallet. For some, it’s a health matter: 1 in 10 don’t carry cash because they think it’s dirty.

Credit Card and Phone Payment Statistics

While paying with cash may be on the way out, credit cards are definitely in for most Americans. Credit may be the new king as 69% of respondents said they prefer to pay for goods and services via card. There are some risks, though: 54% of those surveyed say credit cards feel like “free money” and 71% say it’s easier to overspend while using a card.

On the other hand, 79% of respondents say they find it easier to track spending using a credit card, and nearly 1 in 4 say they wouldn’t be able to make ends meet without a credit card.

Statistics on paying by phone and by credit card graphic by CardRates

Another interesting point — Gen Z is so pro-credit that 3 in 5 of survey participants say they consider cash ‘free money,’ largely because it’s not tied to a card. 

Another top trend in transactions is the rise of payment apps like PayPal, CashApp, and Venmo in paying for goods and services. Nearly all surveyed Americans — 94% — use these apps on their phones, and 39% think credit cards may become obsolete in favor of phone-based payments. Payment by phone is most popular with younger Americans: 52% of Gen Zers surveyed prefer to use their phones when making purchases, and 32% of Gen Zers and millennials said they want to ditch their wallets entirely (ID and all!) to consolidate all necessary items onto their phone. Here’s hoping their batteries are always charged.

Rising Trends in Cashless and Cash-Only Businesses

Especially since the pandemic, many institutions, ranging from restaurants and coffee shops to public transit and sporting complexes, have shifted to a cashless model, accepting only credit or debit cards. Is this popular? It turns out only 1 in 5 Americans surveyed said they prefer cashless businesses, and 56% believe that businesses should not be allowed to go cashless. A chief concern for 1 in 5 is potential discrimination against those who typically use cash.

Cashless and cash only statistics graphic by CardRates

On the other side of this coin is the cash-only business, typically an independently owned establishment seeking to avoid the card fees leveraged by payment processing companies. Nearly 2 in 5 (39%) of people surveyed have been to a cash-only establishment, but over 1 in 10 still had to leave or have someone else pay for them. Cash-only establishments are rare enough that 46% say they are surprised they even still exist!

How much cash does each generation handle? We found that baby boomers usually carry cash the most, with nearly 3 in 4 of respondents saying they usually keep it on hand. Boomers are so committed to cash that 38% even have anxiety if they don’t have cash on them. On the other end of that spectrum is Gen Z, with about 54% of respondents saying they typically carry cash. Regardless, over 1 in 3 Americans surveyed use cash once a week. They typically stock their wallet with an average of $94. 

Whether you’re fully cashless or the type to always have some money in your wallet, there are benefits to having a good mix between cash and card including a credit card portfolio.  We have a team of experts on hand to help you choose the best card for you if you’re looking to get your first card or add another one to your wallet.

Methodology 

In April 2024, we surveyed 1,000 Americans about their cash carrying habits. Participant ages ranged from 18 to 77 with an average age of 41. Respondents were 50% men, 48% women, and 2% nonbinary and/or chose not to disclose. 

For media inquiries, contact media@cardrates.com.