Majority of Americans Foresee Cashless Future, But It’s Not Here Yet

With new credit card technologies, mobile payments, and other such options coming to the forefront, some have wondered when the United States might be transitioning into a cashless society. In fact some merchants are looking to accelerate the process by banning cash from their stores — only for cities like Philadelphia and Washington D.C. then to attempt implement legislative measures in order to stop such practices. So are we nearing a cashless future? Not quite yet, it seems.

According to a new study by Cardtronics (reported by eMarketer), 58% of U.S. Internet users believed that America would go fully cashless within their lifetimes. That’s a significant increase from the 46% that felt the same way in a similar YouGov poll conducted earlier this year — although that study wasn’t limited to Internet users. Meanwhile 18% of Cardtronics respondents were even more bullish on a cashless takeover, saying it could happen within five years.

Despite the cashless inevitability that the majority of participants expressed, paper currency was found to be the second most popular form of payment, with 28% saying they preferred it to other options. However debit cards were the top choice overall with 37%. Third place went to credit cards (20%) followed by mobile payments (13%), and checks (2%).

It’s interesting to note that 64% of those surveyed said they felt anxious when they didn’t have any cash on them. Cash was also more popular for smaller purchases — usually less than $30. For example respondents were most likely to use cash at convenience stores or fast food restaurants. Bringing things back to FinTech, the survey also found that digital payments increased in popularity at fast-casual restaurants and mass merchandisers. This is likely because options such as mobile order and pay were included in this category.

Speaking of digital payments, Cardtronics found that 45% of Millennials reported using mobile wallets and other technologies compared to 29% of overall respondents. At the same time, the study found that Millennials used cash just about as much as their elders. This might suggest that there’s still apprehension about relying on mobile payments options, as further evidenced by a recent Bank of America survey that found only 19% of smartphone owners said they’d be able to go cash-free for a year.

While studies like this do drive home the likely reality that we’re far from becoming a cashless society, the small steps we take in that direction are notable. One of the lessons in this study seems to be that mobile ordering platforms are helping to spur adoption of digital payments. Yet, when it comes to smaller transactions like those at convenience stores, cash is still king. Perhaps in the coming years, FinTechs can focus on that conundrum and find new ways to move us toward that cashless future many imagine.

Author

Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded DyerNews.com in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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