Where and Why America Uses Cash
A recent survey of Americans points to the resilience of cash. While retail use of cash has declined, physical currency is still considered ‘unbeatable’ for emergency use as well as lending and saving.
2,000 adults across the United States were surveyed on their payment habits and cash preferences by OnePoll on behalf of Alliant Credit Union. 45 percent reported using cash within the past week, rising to a total of 83 percent who had used it within the past month.
51 percent of people said they had cash stored in their homes, with the average amount being just over $1,000. 58 percent of all respondents preferred holding some cash savings for use in an emergency, such as being locked out of other payment options or when cashless payments are unavailable due to internet or electricity outages.
29 percent reported using cash to lend money to friends or family, versus 17 percent who use mobile payments and 15 percent who prefer cheques. For the 37 percent who said they were currently lending cash to acquaintances, the average maximum amount they would willingly provide was almost $1,500. 38 percent of those said they would only ask for repayment if they considered the amount large enough, and 15 percent said they would not ask to be paid back at all.
20 percent of respondents prefer cash to other payment methods and 21 percent say it is the most practical way to pay. 25 percent prefer to pay by credit card and 24 percent with debit card. 53 percent said they would be likely to shop at a cash-only business, with 17 percent saying they would not and 30 percent feeling neutral.
What I think we’re seeing here isn’t that cash is dying out, instead its uses are evolving. Seeing that people still opt to use cash for savings, emergencies and lending to friends and family tells us that cash’s usefulness is the fact that it’s liquid and instantly available.
Small purchases, such as coffee or conveniences, were the primary use of cash for 43 percent of cash users. 39 percent used cash for grooming appointments, while 35 percent said they had used it for ‘small, non-critical emergencies’.
Knowing people still see cash as a reliable backup option can tell us a lot about how we view resiliency with our personal finances.