Cash Use Continues to Decline

October 18, 2016, Written By Bill Hardekopf
United states currency, bills and coins

In North America, 60% of consumers use cash to pay for a transaction at least once a week, a substantial decrease from 67% in 2015.

While cash use is on the decline, awareness of mobile payments is on the rise. Now more than half (56%) of consumers know about mobile payments, but only 19% use this payment method regularly.

The Accenture 2016 North America Consumer Digital Payments Survey, which surveyed more than 4,000 smartphone users in the U.S. and Canada, also found debit and credit cards continue to be the most popular payment method. Debit card usage remained at 58%, while credit card usage was up to 53% (up 3% from 2015).

“We are seeing a gradual increase in consumer awareness of mobile phone payments options; however, adoption has remained flat over the past few years,” said Robert Flynn, managing director of Accenture Payments in North America. “Consumers are content to use cash and plastic for their everyday transactions, and while the use of cash is declining overall, it is the most commonly used form of payment—and consumers expect it to remain so in 2020.”

While mobile payments are yet to take off, other digital payments are on the rise. For example, PayPal use has increased to 18% (up from 14% in 2014). Consumers are also interested in mobile wallet adoption in the future, and 60% believe they will see an increase in use by card networks and tech giants.

“The existing payments system isn’t broken, which is why consumers are not making a mass-move to mobile phone payments adoption—the incentives are not there yet,” said Michael Abbott, managing director of Accenture Digital, Financial Services, North America lead.

In fact, 64% of consumers have never used their mobile phone to make a payment, and 37% said they have not done so because they think cash and plastic are suitable for their payment needs. 21% do not want to enter their payment credentials into their mobile phone, and 19% are concerned about unauthorized transactions.

Millennials and mass affluent individuals (those who earn $100,000 a year after taxes) are most likely to make the switch. More than half of both groups said they are among the first to try new technologies, and 30% of Millennials and 35% of the mass affluent are interested in completing transactions with wearables or smart devices.

Last month, card transactions overtook cash payments for the first time.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of October 18, 2016. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.