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Survey: Cash still king for certain purchases

Until transactions reach a certain amount, consumers are most likely to pay with cash.

According to a new survey of 2,544 U.S. adults from, 49% of respondents prefer to use cash for purchases of less than $10. Another 35% most often pay with debit cards and 16% use credit cards. Credit card payments for small purchases proved more popular among respondents with rewards credit cards (26%), while 43% said they preferred cash and 31% use debit cards.

Other notable findings from the survey include:

Contactless cards and mobile payments aren’t commonplace. Only 39% of respondents with rewards credit cards have used mobile payments, and just 14% have used a contactless card.

Many consumers don’t own a contactless card. Ten percent of rewards cardholders reported that they have at least one contactless card, but 53% said they don’t own one, and 22% weren’t sure if they had one or not.

Bigger earners use credit cards more frequently than others. For all respondents, the more they earned, the more they used credit cards instead of cash. The highest earners (with annual salaries of $80,000 or more) still use cash the most (42%) for small purchases, but they’re more likely than all other income groups to use credit cards (24%).

Gender factors in. Among all respondents, women were more likely than men to use debit cards to pay for small purchases (39% to 32%). Fifty-one percent of men said they typically use cash to pay for purchases less than $10, compared to 46% of women.

Millennials are leading the way with mobile payments. Out of those with rewards cards, 61% of millennials have used a mobile payments service, which is significantly more than both Gen Xers and baby boomers (44% and 24%, respectively).
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