cash is still used in 31% of US consumer transactions

Here at Payments NEXT, we love to explore the world of payments of all kinds from credit and debit cards and the latest fintech innovations to mobile, contactless, cashless, biometrics, POS, and every future payment possibility on the horizon.

cash is still used in 31% of US consumer transactions.

Once in a while, it’s important to remember that cash is still very much a part of the payments world for many consumers. In fact, despite the growth of e-commerce, cards, PayPal, Square and cryptocurrencies, cash in circulation in the US has grown at 5% annually for the past two decades.

And those bills in your purse or wallet, or coins in your pocket? They’re still used in 31% of US consumers transactions across all income levels according to a CNBC report. Use of cash jumps dramatically as you drop to lower income levels as well and that’s reflected in the recent debate and pushback against contactless payments and cashless stores in the US.

Cash is still very much a “thing”

“Some people feel that cash is a more anonymous form of payment, and I would never predict the death of cash over the next decade or two. I think cash is going to be with us for a long time to come. But there is a clear trend toward digitization. It’s just a more efficient, time-efficient, cost-efficient way to managing your money.” PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said in a CNBC interview last year.

Here are a few cash facts from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to consider:

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco research on use of cash.
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
  • cash is the most frequently used payment instrument, representing 30% of all transactions and 55% of transactions under $10
  • while online shopping is growing, 77% of payments were still made in-person and cash accounted for 39% of these transactions
  • those 18 to 25 years of age and 45 years and older use cash to pay for transactions approximately 34% of the time.

“It’s a matter of time – but it’s going to be a long time, not a next year kind of thing,” said Michael Vaughan, the chief operating officer of Venmo, at a Wharton Global Forum last year. “It’s still decades, and decades, and decades. It’s going to take our lifetime and our kids’ lifetime before you start to see this work itself out.”


As the US government debates whether put activist Harriet Tubman on the $20 US bill, it’s a good time to reflect on the need for cash in our economy, even as we increase adoption of other payment tools from mobile to biometrics in the future.

Cash is still king in this payments Game of Thrones, but debit and mobile payments are definitely rattling their sabers.