Cash is still the most popular way of paying in the US, says Cardtronics

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Despite being several months into US life post liability shift, it seems that the old fashioned payment method of cash is still proving to be the most popular amongst adult Americans, according to Cardtronics, the largest US non-bank ATM operator.

Back in November, it became clear that original expectations for the amount of people using EMV cards after the October 1st deadline were far too high and a more realistic deadline for universal adoption would be 2017. The same went for mobile payments as research suggested Apple Pay’s growth has stagnated one year on from its US launch.

Penny Gartner, a research director at Gartner Inc., a technology research firm, put it very succinctly to the LA Times, “When you ask consumers about mobile payments, they pretty much tell you they’re not interested — not everyone, but the majority of buyers. They feel the payment devices they have today work fine”. She is mainly referring to cash and credit/debit cards. This fits the narrative and timeline of the realistic 2017 deadline – people were never going to abandon cash the moment EMV cards or mobile payments were introduced. They have used cash all their life and it is accepted everywhere, whereas clearly merchants struggled to integrate the new EMV technology, let alone the extremely costly terminals that can process mobile payments.

Cardtronic’s survey asked 1,000 US adults, “What type of payment have you used in the past year for the following situations?” and cash came out on top in most scenarios.

For example, eight out of ten people used cash as the preferred method of paying someone back, a cheque was in second place at 18 per cent. Just under two thirds (63 per cent) of people used cash in convenience stores, and whilst people clearly used a range of different payments, explaining why 41 per cent of people also put down debit cards, cash usually was the most frequently used.

It should be noted that for larger expenditures such as food shops it was a closer call as people flitted between cash (52 per cent) and debit cards (51 per cent).

“Cash is king for many consumers, even in today’s expanding universe of digital payment options. Our survey data clearly shows that in a competitive payments environment, cash is a predominant payment form and sits atop multiple spending categories,” said Tom Pierce, chief marketing officer, Cardtronics.

While more than half (57 per cent) of millennials reported using a broad range of payment methods than before, just under half (45 per cent) of that group also said that they’re more likely to pay more frequently with cash now than they did a few years ago. In fact, Millennials report increased cash usage at the greatest clip compared with all other survey respondents.

Among all adults, 37 per cent said their use of cash had increased.  The survey also found that women are more likely than men (39 vs. 29 per cent) to use cash to help stay on budget.

“There is a myth in the marketplace that Millennials have abandoned cash in favor of mobile and other digital payments. It’s simply not true. What we found exposed the myth, with Millennials embracing cash usage along with new payment methods. Millennials take an open-minded view of payments and cash plays a pivotal role in their payment choice mix,” added Pierce.

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