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Credit and Debit Cards Gaining Up On Cash for Small Purchases

In July 2019, commissioned an online survey with 2,544 adult participants about their use of cash, credit, and debit cards.  What they discovered is that, overall, consumers prefer to use cash for purchases worth less than $10.

It turns out that 49% of American adults are more likely to pay with cash. Debit cards come in second at 35%, and 16% with credit cards.

For those who owned reward credit cards, 43 percent still preferred to pay with cash, 31 percent preferred debit and 26 percent credit. This was a drop from last year’s results, where 45% of adults preferred to pay cash. The use of debit cards had gone up from last year’s 30% result and up from last year’s 23% for credit card purchases.

Among the US adults in the survey, women were more likely to use their debit cards for small purchases than men (39% versus 32%). Fifty-one percent of the men mentioned that they typically use cash to pay for purchases less than $10, versus 46 percent of women.

So why, with the availability of reward credit cards, contactless cards, and mobile payments, are consumers still preferring cash and debit cards?

Among those who are reward credit card holders, 40% revealed that they prefer cash or debit card purchases because it’s “quicker and easier to use” than other payment methods.  Twenty-four percent of these respondents said that it was due to their concerns about credit card debt. Fourteen percent of these respondents mentioned that many stores have credit card minimums or fees for small purchases. Only 11% said they had no incentive to use their rewards credit card.

Although credit card rewards can help consumers save on everyday purchases, save up points for a vacation, or for a larger purchase, many consumers fear the late fees and interest charges that are tied to credit cards. As a result, consumers simply feel safer using cash and debit cards.

Using a rewards credit card, even on small purchases has its advantages.

The greatest reason to use a rewards credit card is simply having more peace of mind.  If anything goes amiss with your credit card purchase, you instantly have protection.  If you pay cash, you are at the mercy of the merchant to refund you.

If you are using a debit card, you have to be wary of scammers who can steal your debit card number and potentially drain your bank account dry.

Same with cash, if you were to lose a wad of cash or have it stolen, good luck trying to recover it. More than likely, it won’t be recovered.

With credit cards, you get automatic fraud protection, not to mention that you have your credit company to advocate for you if the merchant does not follow through on their product and service.

It also doesn’t hurt if your rewards credit card can add extra cash in your pocket.

In Conclusion

Even with all the new technology coming down the line of making credit card purchases faster and more efficient, as well as the growing popularity of mobile payments and contactless cards, American consumers still believe that cash is king.

Crippling consumer debt is certainly at play as consumers are trying to play it safe and reel in their credit card spending, regardless of all the perks and benefits.