Rumors of the death of cash – as in complete extinction – are greatly exaggerated. Even as digital payments gain ground, cash still remains part of the payments landscape – and its place may be permanent.
A new report from Square underscores the resiliency of bills and coins. That comes even as, Square estimates, the percentage of U.S. consumers using cash for purchases below the $20 threshold dipped from 46 percent to 37 percent. The uptake in card usage comes as consumers seem willing to wield (tangible or digital) plastic on ever smaller transactions. Consider the fact that in 2015, half of buyers used cards for $8 purchases, and now half of buyers use cards for purchases as small as $4.50.
And yet, as the study revealed, in research spanning 1,000 small businesses, 83 percent said they will always take the hard stuff. Only 10 percent of the financial tech firm’s merchants have said they are unwilling to accept cash.
Square said in its report that the majority of small business owners are skeptical of a cashless future, with 73 percent saying that America will never go fully cashless. That decision is tied to customer satisfaction, where two out of three firms surveyed said customers would view wholly cashless firms negatively. The data comes as cashless bans have taken root in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
The Square findings echo some of PYMNTS’ own surveys on cash usage, most recently as seen in the 2018 edition of the PYMNTS/Visa study on “How We Will Pay.”
According to the more than 2,800 individuals surveyed, roughly half of the consumers said they carry between $10 to $50 in their wallets, and 39 percent said the cash was reserved for tipping, or for payments at smaller merchants that do not accept cards.
Elsewhere, the Global Cash Index report centered on the United States finds that cash “share” will decline through the next several years in the low single-digit percentage rates, but will hardly disappear.
And, as stated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta this month, “A complete transition to cashless stores would be extremely difficult in any country (if not impossible), particularly because cash use at the point of sale remains strong in most countries.”