2020 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice

Kevin Foster, Claire Greene, and Joanna Stavins
May 2021

In 2020, U.S. consumers made 68 payments per month on average, unchanged from 2019. Debit cards were used most often, for 23 payments, followed by credit cards (18 payments) and cash (14 payments).

Download the complete report in PDF format

JEL classifications: D12, D14, E42

Key words: cash, checks, checking accounts, debit cards, credit cards, prepaid cards, electronic payments, payment preferences, unbanked, Survey of Consumer Payment Choice

https://doi.org/10.29338/rdr2021-01Off-site link

  • Interactive Charts

    Payment type
    Select one or more payment types, including "All payment methods."

    Income category
    Select one or more income categories, including "All incomes."


    Payment type
    Select one or more payment types, including "All payment methods."

    Age category
    Select one or more age categories, including "All consumers."


    Payment type
    Select one or more payment types, including "All payment methods."

    Transaction category
    Select one or more transaction categories, including "All payments."

  • Key Findings

    In 2020, U.S. consumers made 68 payments per month on average, unchanged from 2019. Debit cards were used most often, for 23 payments, followed by credit cards (18 payments) and cash (14 payments).

    Consumers reported changes in their behavior during the pandemic year of 2020. The share of consumers making at least one online purchase in a typical month increased from 59 percent in 2019 to 66 percent in 2020. The share making at least one mobile phone payment in the prior 12 months increased from 38 percent in 2019 to 46 percent in 2020. Also, more consumers reported making at least one payment to another person in a typical month, 52 percent, up from 48 percent.

    Other findings include:

    • Seventy-four percent of consumers reported that they used cash at least once in a typical month, down from 82 percent in 2019.
    • As a share of all payments, credit card payments increased by 3 percentage points, from 24 percent to 27 percent.
    • More than half of consumers with a credit card reported that their unpaid balance was “lower” or “much lower” in October 2020 compared to October 2019.
    • Online purchases increased from 12 percent of all purchases in 2019 to 15 percent in 2020. Sixty-two percent of consumers adopted at least one payment app, such as PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle, up from 54 percent in 2019.
    • Forty-six percent of consumers made at least one mobile payment in the 12 months ending in October, up from 38 percent in October 2019.

    Interactive charts, showing payment use by transaction type, income, and age, are at the Atlanta Fed website.

  • Data Sets

    Derived Variables with Raw Data

    Raw Data

    • Raw data files hosted at USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research website

    Results

    Send data questions to Senior Survey Specialist Kevin Foster.