Where do you still use the money? Supermarket carts and locker rooms in the pool? Your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant? Scenarios in which cash was the only option have diminished for years, and now it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain in major cities.
But the abundance of payment options in most places doesn’t mean that cash is completely gone. A recent Talker survey of 2,000 adults commissioned by Alliant Credit Union found that 45% have used cash at least once in the past week while 51% are lying at home.
The average person had $1,010 in cash in their home—whether through forgotten bills and coins or specifically stashed to cover the unexpected.
The majority of people do not see cash as the most “practical” method of payment, but rather as something convenient to have on hand to face the odds. The survey found that 28% prefer credit cards as a practical matter while 27% choose debit cards and only 21% think cash is the most practical.
Coffee, nail salons, lend money to friends
The average person surveyed has $70 in cash, while 30% said they most often use the $20 denomination.
The most common uses for cash include a broad category of small purchases – 43% said they use it for things like coffee or a single item at the grocery store.
Because many nail salons operate on a cash-only model, 39% say they use cash for personal grooming appointments, and 35% find themselves relying on cash for small, non-critical emergencies—say, a friend with little money—while using it. 30% off your regular grocery shopping.
While the numbers of cash users decrease as purchases increase, 25% say they pay for gas with cash while 23% do the same when buying clothes.
“What I think we’re seeing here isn’t cash running out – rather, its uses evolving,” said Chris Moore, Alliant’s director of deposits and payment products strategy. “Seeing people still choose to use the cash for savings, emergencies and lending to friends and family tells us that the benefit of cash is the fact that it is liquid and immediately available.”
End of criticism (that doesn’t keep coming up)
While the exorbitant fees at cash-only restaurant ATMs are a bad financial habit to get into, many still do it rather than turn around and go elsewhere if they find their credit card unacceptable. The survey said that 53% had no problem with shopping at cash-only establishments while only 17% said they did not prefer it.
Companies that push a digital model often talk about the “end of cash.” Earlier this year, Wingstop Chicken Wings Series (wing) She launched a cashless restaurant and also hopes to move to digital-only orders.
Some countries have taken the opposite approach and have resisted digitizing payment. In 2020, New York passed a bill that would ban digital institutions only in order not to widen the gap between the wealthiest population and those who, due to financial circumstances, might not have cards, mobile apps, or even bank accounts.
In many ways, an individual’s use of money is both generational and urban. A recent survey in the UK found that nearly half of today’s teens believe they will 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, the numbers show that it is still used for a number of purposes – particularly for small purchases that, in some cases, are not accepted by the card at some establishments or can cost one significantly in bank charges.
“There is no denying the convenience of swiping a card or your smartphone instead of fumbling over cash,” Moore said. “But knowing people still see cash as a reliable backup option can tell us a lot about how we see resilience with our personal finances.”