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What’s the most popular way to pay?

By Mike Cetera ·
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Posted: 4 pm ET
What's the most popular way to pay?

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If I open my wallet and can find a couple of bucks, that's truly a rare achievement. But for most people, cash still rules -- at least for now.

A new survey of 3,000 adults in the United States and Canada from the professional services firm Accenture found that a higher percentage of people use cash weekly than they do credit or debit cards.

Some 60% of respondents said they used cash at least weakly in 2016, down 7 percentage points from a year earlier.

“Consumers are content to use cash and plastic for their everyday transactions, and while the use of cash is declining overall, it is the most commonly used form of payment – and consumers expect it to remain so in 2020," Robert Flynn, managing director of Accenture Payments in North America, wrote in an introduction to the study.

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But of the 3 traditional ways to pay -- cash, credit or debit -- only credit card transactions have increased. In 2016, 53% of consumers said they swipe a credit card weekly, up from 50% in 2015.

Mobile? Meh

Mobile payments, meanwhile, remain flat despite consumers' increasing awareness of the option. Just 19% of consumers made an in-store payment in 2016, the same as a year earlier.

Why haven't mobile payments taken off? There's no reason for people to make the switch, according to Accenture. Of the nearly two-thirds of consumers who haven't yet used their smartphone to make a mobile payment, 37% said they're comfortable simply using cash and plastic.

“The existing payments system isn’t broken, which is why consumers are not making a mass-move to mobile phone payments adoption – the incentives are not there yet,” writes Michael Abbott, managing director of Accenture's North American digital financial unit.

Surprising finding about an old-school method

If there's one thing I use less than cash, it's a check. And yet, the survey found 20% of North American adults say they purchase goods and services at least once a week with a check.

Checks still rank among the least used forms of traditional payments, beating out only prepaid debit cards and gift cards, used weekly by just 13% of adults.

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