Consumers worldwide cannot account for an estimated 20% of their weekly cash spending, according to statistics released last week by Visa.

The telephone survey of 12,103 adults, conducted in September in 12 global markets, revealed that Australians ranked highest in losing track of their cash - reporting they cannot account for an average of $US59 of spending weekly. Those consumers were followed by individuals from Persian Gulf-region Arab states ($42), Russia ($35), Canada ($26) and the United States ($21).

Ipsos Group’s Ipsos Mori, a United Kingdom-based market-research company, conducted the survey on Visa's behalf. The survey revealed that the Japanese appear to be least guilty of losing track of their money. While Japan ranks fourth among the 12 regions in terms of average cash spending, at $166 weekly, Japanese consumers on average can account for all but $11 spent each week.

The only countries where consumers keep better track of their cash expenditures is India, where consumers report losing track of $8 weekly on average, and Korea, at $10 weekly.

U.S. consumers spend the most cash weekly on average ($228), followed by Australia ($176) and Canada ($167). Spotlighting cash-handling habits among U.S. consumers, Visa’s survey data suggest that younger adults between the ages of 18 and 24 claim to lose track of $2,500 annually on average, more that twice the average U.S. adults lose.

Missing cash is most likely going toward purchasing food and other groceries, cited by 34% of respondents; buying nonessentials, 32%; enjoying a night on the town, 31%; and dining out, 26%. Some 37% of respondents listed debit cards as their primary payment method for personal and household expenses, followed by 22% who listed cash, 20% who cited personal checks and 16% who noted credit cards. Five percent were not sure.

Some 68% of survey respondents said they prefer using their debit cards whenever possible for routine payments versus paying with cash. Some 61% of those surveyed said using a debit card helps to track and control everyday spending.

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