About 29% of more than 10,600 U.S. adults surveyed said they no longer use cash for their purchases during a typical week, up from about 24% in 2015, according to a Pew Research Center study.
Meanwhile, only 18% of respondents admitted using cash for all or almost all of their weekly purchases, down from 24% three years ago. Adults with annual income below $30,000 were most likely to use cash, and those with annual income above $75,000 were most likely to not use cash at all during a typical week, the survey found.
Fewer Americans also are concerned about having at least some cash on hand just in case they need it. The survey found that 53% make sure they have cash on hand for unexpected needs, down from 60% in 2015.
More Americans are adapting to a culture in which even small merchants accept a wide variety of payment methods, and the cash-only merchant is becoming an endangered species. However, the U.S. remains far from the model for a cashless society (China may be closest to holding that claim). Fewer than three in 10 consumers pass an average week without pulling a dollar from their wallets.
The demographic split between those consumers who use all cash and those who don't use any is very divided along economic lines. It will be interesting to see if companies that support non-cash payment methods can come up with approaches to appeal to all consumers in all demographics, though it's hard to envision a majority of U.S. consumers going cashless anytime soon.
Still, the trends outlined in these survey results present a start for any retailer considering cashless or cashierless checkout to expedite and improve the customer experience. While Amazon and a handful of other retailers have garnered headlines for their cashierless store models, relying on advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and computer vision, there are other steps retailers can take to position themselves toward customer bases that are less frequently paying in cash.
For example, businesses ranging from Starbucks to a New York City grocery co-op Key Food Montague have experimented with cashless checkout systems or completely cashless locations that accept only mobile payments or payment cards. That may not be as exciting as the cashierless store models, but it represents a practical, incremental move that retailers can make to fit their stores and evolve checkout processes.