Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Cash Is Still King, Sort Of

Burglars take note. It is probably not worth your time to break into houses or cars looking for cash. It turns out, few of us keep cash anywhere but in our pockets, wallets, or purses. And the cash we carry doesn't amount to much—only $59, on average. These findings come from the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (DCPC), a collaborative effort of the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta, Boston, Richmond, and San Francisco.

The latest DCPC survey was fielded in October 2017 and asked a nationally representative sample of respondents to record on a daily basis how much cash they had on their person or stored in their home, car, or office; what payments they made; and how they paid—cash, debit cards, credit cards, electronic transfer, etc. According to the survey results, while most consumers have cash on their person, just 22 percent have at least $1 stored elsewhere. Those who stash cash have an average of $738 squirreled away.

Americans use cash for 30 percent of their transactions during a typical month, the single largest method of payment. But cash accounts for only 8.5 percent of the total value of payments made during a month. Here is a look at the number of transactions made by the average person during a month by payment method...

Number of transactions per month (and average amount per transaction) by type of payment
12.4 cash transactions ($23)
10.7 debit card transactions ($47)
8.6 credit card transactions ($61)
2.5 checks written ($238)
2.2 other* methods ($180)
2.0 bank account number payments ($310)
1.7 online banking bill pay ($256)
0.7 prepaid cards ($26)
0.1 money orders ($275)

* Other methods include PayPal, account-to-account transfers, mobile payments, and deductions from income.

The average American makes payments amounting to $3,418 during a month. Interestingly, the average number of payments made during a month fell from 46 in 2016 to 41 in 2017—a statistically significant drop. The reason for the decline is not known.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, The 2017 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice

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