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02/23/2021

Survey: Despite COVID-19 fears, consumers still carry cash

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Cashless payments are on the rise in the wake of COVID-19, but don’t write off hard currency just yet.

A new survey from online deal platform CouponFollow, “The State of Cashless Spending in 2021,” indicates nearly half (49%) of surveyed adult U.S. consumers are worried about using cash due to the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission. As a result, 41% started using cashless payments during 2020. 

However, respondents are not entirely abandoning cash as a means of making retail purchases. Six in 10 (62%) used cash for some of their shopping in 2020, and nine in 10 (91%) carry cash on them at any given time. About one-third (35%) of respondents said they are prepared to give up using cash completely.

The survey also reveals that smartphone-based payments show promise for future growth. Four in 10 (43%) respondents started using apps like Venmo and PayPal more in 2020, while 33% are increasingly reliant on digital wallets like Apple Pay. Other cashless payment forms that saw upticks in use by more than one-third of respondents included credit cards (40%) and debit cards (38%). Generationally, the survey finds that Gen Z and millennials are the driving forces behind the rise of cashless, digital, and app-based payments.

Only about one-quarter (24%) of respondents have started using buy-online-pickup-in-store payment more often since the pandemic began, with a surprising 15% using it less. While buy now, pay later has been receiving a lot of publicity in recent months, only 19% of respondents are using it more during COVID-19 and 9% are paying via this method less.

In addition, the survey reveals continued divided consumer opinions on cryptocurrency. Forty percent of respondents admit knowing nothing about cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, while 38% think it’s the future of money and 37% believe it’s a bubble or a fad that will pass.