American adults report using cash to make purchases far less regularly than they did 5 years ago, according to results from a Gallup survey. Some 73% say they make less than half of their purchases using cash, including 6 in 10 who say they make only a few (49%) or no purchases (11%) at all with cash.
That’s a drastic difference from 5 years ago: only 1 in 3 say that when thinking back 5 years, they made few (27%) or no (5%) purchases using cash.
In fact, adults today are about twice as likely to make no purchases using cash than all of them (11% vs. 5%). Thinking back to five years ago the opposite is true, with 12% claiming they made all their purchases with cash then versus 5% making none.
This year just 1 in 8 (13%) report making most or all of their purchases using cash, and a further 13% estimate using cash in half of their purchases. As such, the proportion of adults who estimate making at least half of their purchases using cash now (26%) is half of the proportion who believe the same regarding 5 years ago (53%).
The use of cash seems to vary by household income. Almost three-quarters of respondents from households with annual income of at least $100K make only a few (57%) or none (16%) of their purchases using cash, compared to half (49%) of those with annual income of less than $40K.
The decline in use of cash is especially acute among 18-29-year-olds: just 11% say they use cash for all or most of their purchases today, compared to 37% who say they mostly used cash 5 years ago.
Predictions of A Cashless Society Largely Unchanged
What hasn’t changed much in the past few years are predictions about a future cashless society. This year 64% of adults surveyed deem it “very likely” (29%) or “likely” (35%) that in their lifetime the US will be a cashless society. That compares to 62% who felt that way in 2016. Past research has found that people in the US are less likely than those in some other countries to envision a cashless society.
Interestingly, people tend to see this potential development as a net negative: 45% would be “upset” were this to happen, versus just 9% who would be “happy.” (The rest are neutral.)
Finally, despite not using cash for many purchases, most adults (56%) like to have cash on them at all times when out of their home, versus 43% who are comfortable without cash. These figures have not changed much since 2016 (54% and 42%, respectively). As was the case back then, comfort leaving the house without cash is greater among younger respondents: a majority of those ages 18-29 (54%) and 30-49 (55%) are comfortable not having cash on their person, but that dips to 36% among 50-64-year-olds and just 26% among those ages 65 and older.
For more, check out the full survey results here.
About the Data: The results are based on telephone interviews conducted in July among a random sample of 1,013 US adults (18+).