Cash and credit card spending statistics can help both consumers and businesses alike understand just how payments are evolving. If you’re a consumer, cash and credit card payments statistics can show you where payment tides are turning—and whether you’re participating in those tides. If you’re a business, cash and credit card statistics can show you exactly what customers will expect of your point of sale system or payment gateway.
Long story short, being up-to-date on cash vs credit card spending statistics can make your financial decisions far more educated. Here are the 19 most pertinent cash vs credit card spending statistics of 2020:
Cash and credit card spending statistics are crucial indicators of consumer spending habits—and even the broader economy—as a whole. These numbers behind consumer spending methods shed light on how cash and credit card spending measure up against each other. They also help us understand why consumers are choosing cash over credit card spending and vice versa.
You’ve already scanned through the numbers, but it’s time to dig a little deeper into what the numbers show us. Here are the details on 19 of the most useful cash vs credit card spending statistics to keep in mind for 2020:
Cash vs credit card statistics show that 80% of consumers prefer spending with a card over cash. This 80% breaks down to 54% of consumers who prefer spending with debit cards and 26% of consumers who prefer spending with credit cards. Meanwhile, only 14% specified that they preferred spending with cash.  These numbers indicate that the debit card offers up a happy medium between credit card spending and cash spending—consumers access the convenience of card spending without the debt of credit card spending.
According to statistics from the Boston Federal Reserve, 75.7% of consumers have at least one credit card. Based on census numbers, then, around 189 million Americans adults carry at least one credit card.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—as we’ll cover later, many consumers that have credit cards have multiple credit cards. So, not only are over three-quarters of American adults credit cardholders, they’re also more than likely carrying multiple credit cards in their wallet, as well.
On the other hand, a very small sliver of the population spends with exclusively cash. A mere 10% of consumers spend with cash and cash only.  Those that spend with cash and cash only tend to be bankless individuals—whether by choice or by circumstance—and don’t have access to a debit card, much less a credit card.
That said, a sizeable proportion of consumers are still using cash—even if they only spend with it every now and then. 88% of consumers spend with cash at least sometimes.  Though few people are spending with exclusively cash, most are still spending with cash at least infrequently. Of course, there are still cash-only businesses and credit card minimums to deal with, so the cash-free future that many have anticipated is still out of reach.
Statistics from Experian show that the average size of cash transactions is just $22. Again, credit card minimums and lower-ticket cash-only businesses help explain this somewhat surprising number. Plus, one of the main risks of carrying cash is getting it stolen without a way to recoup your losses. Hence, consumers aren’t likely to carry around huge amounts of cash with them and unlikely to spend huge amounts with it.
As a result, the $22 average cash transaction rounds in on the smaller side, especially compared to the average overall transaction size of $84. 
At $112, the average non-cash transaction is much larger than the average cash transaction.  The same factors that you can attribute the small average cash transaction to also go into this sizeable average non-cash transaction. Whereas cash limits spending, card spending—especially credit card spending—opens it up. And the extra theft security that card spending offers means you won’t have to worry about losing money in the case that your wallet is stolen or lost.
We weren’t kidding when we mentioned that most credit card users had multiple credit cards. In fact, the average credit card user has a whopping four credit cards.  Considering just how many people out there are credit card users, this average is pretty remarkable.
To put things into perspective, look at it this way: There are around 459,000,000 credit cards in circulation right now. 
As a reminder, consumers prefer debit card spending of any other form of spending. Hence, 66.9% of card payments are debit card payments. That means that just a third of all card payments are credit card payments, by number. That’s in spite of the massive number of credit cards out there in spite of the large proportion of consumers who have credit cards. 
Most consumers don’t live a cash vs credit card lifestyle—as you might suspect, most people spend with both cash and credit. In fact, 90% of households use more than one payment method. So, rarely do consumers spend with just cash or credit—many will use both. 
Even more, the average consumer uses 3.6 different payment methods every month, according to the Federal Reserve.  So, not only do a vast majority of households use more than one payment methods, the average consumer users almost four different forms of payment within any given month.
According to Statistica, 45% of consumers prefer using stored card information for online transactions. This payment method won out even over PayPal, which just 22% consumers say they prefer. Even further behind is manual entry card transactions, which just 17% of consumers prefer. 
To accompany the huge number of credit cardholders—and just credit cards, in general—is a hefty amount of debt. There is $784 billion of outstanding credit card debt, with an average of $2,326.71 in debt per cardholder. The average monthly payment for this debt is $779.83. 
The previous credit card statistic makes sense when you consider that less than half of credit cardholders pay down their spending in full every month. That’s right—only 45% of credit card users pay their balance in full from month to month, which means they’re accruing interest on their spending. 
Not so coincidentally, over half of credit card users cite high interest rates as the main downside of credit card use. According to Experian, 51% of credit cardholders saw the interest rates that credit cards charge on overdue balances as the most significant drawback. It’s no wonder that this is the case, when almost half of cardholders aren’t paying down their monthly spending. 36% also cited taking on more debt as a downside of spending with a credit card, along with annual fees (33%), risk of identity theft (33%), and high-cost fees (31%). 
On the other side of things, though, 38% of credit card users say that the main reason for spending with a credit card is avoiding the inconveniences that come with cash—think spending limits and the possibility of losing it. Nonetheless, this reasoning trails behind the forerunner—having a spending cushion for emergencies—which 42% of consumers cited as their main reason for having a credit card. Consumers also indicated rewards (36%) and building creditworthiness (34%) as other top reasons for spending with a credit card. 
Experian also found that the most common types of credit card—surprisingly enough—are retail and store-specific credit cards. 41% of consumers had these credit cards, while 39% had other types of reward cards, and 32% had secured credit cards. Types of credit cards that were less common were balance transfer cards at 18%, airline credit cards at 16%, business credit cards at 13%, and student credit cards at 3%. 
Large banks have reported an interesting trend in ATM activity. While the number of ATM cash withdrawals has decreased by 2.8%, the value of ATM cash withdrawals has increased by 0.5%.  These statistics imply that consumers are still taking out about the same amount of cash, but they’re doing it in larger chunks. Clearly, the need for cash hasn’t slowed down, but willingness to make it to the ATM has.
Card activity, on the other hand, hasn’t slowed down in any way. Card payments have increased in number by 10% and in value by 8.4% year over year. So, overall card payment, both in the number of transactions made and in the amount spent, had only gone up.  Consumers are unfailingly demonstrating their preference for the convenience of card payments, while they show lukewarm attachment to the necessity of cash.
Now that you’ve made it through 19 of the most pertinent cash vs credit card spending statistics available, what’s the takeaway? Long story short, consumers use credit cards because of the convenience they afford, above all else. Sure, rewards are nice, but card spending in general allows for online purchases and freedom from carrying cash, as well. And they’re willing to risk high interest rates to access these conveniences.
Maddie Shepherd is a former Fundera senior staff writer and current contributing writer for Fundera.
Maddie has an extensive knowledge of business credit cards, accounting tools, and merchant services, but specializes in small business financing advice. She has reviewed and analyzed dozens of financial tools and providers, helping business owners make better financial decisions.