Australians reported the largest amount of unaccountable cash spending at $59 per week, representing 34% of their weekly cash expenses, survey data from Visa Inc. show.

Visa conducted the study of “mystery spending” by surveying some 12,000 consumers in 12 countries.

On a global basis, survey participants said they were unable to account for 20% of their cash spent on average each week. Top spending categories where consumers lose track of cash include shopping for food or groceries (43%) leisure shopping (33%) and a night out (32%), according to Visa.

Second to Australia among countries where residents lose track of cash spending the most was India, where on a percentage basis participants on average could not account for $8, or 31%, of the cash they spent per week, Visa’s data show.

Of the total consumers surveyed, 25% were from Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Consumers in Latin America could not account for an average of $22 per week in cash spending, which equates to a loss of $1,100 per year and 25% of their weekly cash expenses, Visa survey results.

Those Latin American consumers said they were most likely to lose track of the cash they spend purchasing food and groceries (50%), leisure shopping (36%), enjoying a night on the town (36%), buying snacks (34%) and dining out (31%).

In addition, 56% of Latin American consumers agreed that keeping track of small cash purchases was difficult and that debit cards could help them better monitor their spending, Jose Maria Ayuso, head of product for Visa’s Latin American/Caribbean region, said in a statement.

According to the survey data, 61% of debit card users in Latin America preferred to use their debit card instead of cash, and 48% believed using a debit card cut down on “mystery spending.” Meanwhile, 61% of debit card users in Latin America said using debit cards helps them stick to a budget, while 50% said tracking spending online was helpful.

Debit card spending is growing in Latin America, as 36% of consumers in the region use debit for purchases, while 12% use debit as their primary method of payment, Visa says. By the end of 2009, debit-transaction volume in Latin America had grown by 33% from five years earlier, though Visa did not provide specific numbers. 

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