Recent news reports say that cash is dying, and it might seem so based on the frequent headlines these last few years as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay and other mobile payment players entered the marketplace. But year after year, cash remains resolutely alive, with proof of life coming in the form of study after study ranking it among consumers' most used payment methods: debit, cash and credit.
Cash Standing Its Ground
For example, a survey by Bankrate.com in mid-November 2015 found that cash came in first place with 39 percent of consumers poised to use it for holiday purchases, followed by 31 percent using debit cards and 22 percent using credit cards. The study also found that the biggest supposed threat to cash – mobile payment – was planned for use by only one percent of shoppers. And, in another November 2015 study, cash rules for person-to-person (P2P) payments. An Aite Group study found that for P2P payments, cash and checks still reign supreme with 71 percent and 56 percent of consumers, respectively.
Are Mobile Payment Methods Going to Kill Cash?
Predictions are that mobile payments or other digital forms of payment will precipitate cash’s downfall, but not according to the latest Accenture mobile payments study. Also released in November, this study found that 52 percent of the 4,000 or so surveyed in the U.S. and Canada know mobile is out there as an option. But when it comes time to actually use it in physical stores instead of a card, most consumers seem to be saying "no thanks" or "not yet." The study further speculates that consumers won’t be ready to become fully engaged with mobile methods until they are incentivized to do so with loyalty and other types of programs.
And What About the Future?
The same Accenture study asked consumers about the future, and most do agree that they expect to be using less cash in 2020. That's in less than five years from now. Then again, 30 years ago Back to the Future predicted we'd see hover boards and hover cars in 2015. The gap between payments prognostication and reality of consumer behavior has favored cash usage more often than not.
As the world's largest retail ATM owner / operator, and thus a major cash access provider for consumers, Cardtronics understands mobile pay will likely become a statistically meaningful piece of the payments pie at some time in the future. But that piece will be alongside continuing cash usage because we anticipate mobile is most likely to be a form-factor replacement vehicle for what today are credit and debit card transactions. And instead of a threat, we view mobile as complementing ATMs in that cash machines could send paperless receipts, or in-store coupons to mobile devices for redemption. Mobile is a friend to cash at this point, and a supplement to the way Cardtronics delivers cash access and value-added services.
Senior Vice President, Transaction Product Group