Where do you still use cash? Supermarket trolleys and pool locker rooms? Your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant? The scenarios in which cash is the only option has been dwindling for years and, now, are increasingly hard to come by in major cities.
But the abundance of payment options at most places does not mean that cash is going away entirely. A recent Talker survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by Alliant Credit Union, found that 45% used cash at least once in the last week while 5src% have some lying around at home.
The average person had $src,0src0 in cash at their home — whether through forgotten bills and coins or specifically stashed away to cover the unexpected.
The majority of people do not see cash as the most “practical” way to pay but rather as something that’s convenient to have on hand for eventualities. The survey found that 28% prefer credit cards for practicality while 27% opt for debit cards and only 2src% believe cash is the most practical.
Coffee, Nail Salons and Lending Money To FriendsThe average person surveyed had $70 in cash on them while 30% said they most frequently use $20 bills.
The most common uses for cash include the broad category of smaller purchases — 43% said they use it for things like coffee or a single item at the grocery store.
As many nail salons work on a cash-only model, 39% said they use cash for personal grooming appointments, 35% find themselves relying on cash due to small, non-critical emergencies — for example, a friend who is short a few bucks — while 30% use it for regular grocery shopping.
While the numbers of cash users declines as the purchases get bigger, 25% still said they pay for gas in cash while 23% do the same when buying clothing.
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“What I think we’re seeing here isn’t that cash is dying out — instead, its uses are evolving,” Chris Moore, director of deposits and payment product strategy at Alliant. “Seeing that people still opt to use cash for savings, emergencies and lending to friends and family tells us that cash’s usefulness is the fact that it’s liquid and instantly available.”
The End Of Cash (That Never Keeps Coming)While the steep fees at ATMs in cash-only restaurants are a bad financial habit to get into, many still do it rather than turn around and go somewhere else if they find that their credit card is not accepted. The survey said 53% have no problem shopping at cash-only establishments while only src7% said they would rather not.
The “end of cash” is something that businesses pushing a digital model often talk about. Earlier this year, chicken wing chain Wingstop (WING) launched a cash-free restaurant that it also hopes to transition to having only digital orders.
Some states have taken the opposite approach and fought back against payment digitalization. In 2020, New York passed a bill banning digital-only establishments in order to not exacerbate the divide between wealthier residents and those who may not have cards, phone apps or even bank accounts due to financial circumstances.
In many ways, one’s use of cash is both generational and urban. A recent survey in the United Kingdom found that nearly half of current teenagers believe they’ll never use cash to pay for restaurant meals by the time they reach adulthood.
But as much as some may want to see the end of cash, numbers show that it is still being used for a number of purposes — particularly for smaller purchases that, in some cases, are not accepted by card at some establishments or can cost one heavily in bank fees.
“There’s no denying the convenience of pulling out a card or your smartphone instead of fumbling with cash,” Moore said. “But knowing people still see cash as a reliable backup option can tell us a lot about how we view resiliency with our personal finances.”