Millennials and Cash: A Budding Relationship

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Cash remains the payment method of choice for nearly four out of five consumers needing to pay someone back, including the notoriously tech-savvy millennials.

The results of a Cardtronics Inc. survey of more than 1,015 U.S. adults in late 2015 also throw some cold water on what Houston-based Cardtronics calls a myth about millennial consumers abandoning cash for mobile payment methods.

The survey found that 57% of millennials use more payment methods than in the past, but it's actually cash that's making headway — 45% of that group said they are more likely to use cash now than three years ago. Millennials reported a greater increase in cash use than any other respondent age category, said Tom Pierce, chief marketing officer for Cardtronics, in a Jan. 14 press release.

"Cash is king for many consumers, even in today's expanding universe of digital payment options," Pierce stated in the release. "Our survey data clearly shows that in a competitive payments environment, cash is a predominant payment form and sits atop multiple spending categories."

Among all adults, 37% said their use of cash had increased. The survey also reported women are more likely than men (39% vs. 29%) to use cash to help stay on budget.

The survey asked consumers to tell what payment method they used in various scenarios, and cash was the top choice in most scenarios, Cardtronics said.

Cash was chosen by 78% of respondents when having to pay someone back, while 18% used checks for that task.

For convenience store purchases, 63% used cash, while 41% used a debit card. In buying "snacks away from home," respondents said they used cash 67% of the time, and debit cards 37%.

At a grocery store, 52% used cash, with 51% used debit, while 49% said they used cash for purchases at small business locations and 43% said they used debit.

Cash was the top choice for restaurant payments at 53%, while 48% said they used credit cards. Cash dominated tipping payments at 78%, while 27% used their credit cards for tips.

Cardtronics partnered with independent research firm Edelman Berland to conduct the online survey of consumers older than 18.

Cardtronics, an ATM service provider, handles more than 190,000 retail ATMs in North America and Europe.

The survey findings echo an Aite Group study, also from late last year, determining that cash remained a popular choice, along with checks and PayPal when compared to P2P apps.

Recent research in Canada also demonstrates the staying power of cash in the face of growing popularity of contactless credit and debit card payments.

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