The 2016 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice

2017 • No. 17–7
By Claire Greene and Scott Schuh

Full Text Document (pdf)

This report contains initial results for the 2016 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (DCPC), the third in a series of diary surveys. It includes estimates of the number, value, and average value of payments that all U.S. adult consumers made using the various U.S. payment instruments. It also includes estimates of cash held on person by denomination of currency, and it discusses changes in payment choice and cash holdings from 2015 to 2016.

  • Key Findings

    • In October 2016, the period covered by this DCPC, consumers paid mostly with cash (31 percent of payments), debit cards (27 percent), and credit cards (18 percent).
    • The aforementioned instruments accounted for 76 percent of the number of payments, but only 34 percent of the total value of payments, because they tend to be used more for smaller-value payments.
    • Electronic payments accounted for 43 percent of the value of payment, but only 14 percent of the number of payments.
    • The average value of a cash transaction was $22, compared to $112 for the average noncash transaction (and $84 for all transactions).
    • The average value of consumers’ holdings of cash on their persons was $57, and the median was $24.
  • Exhibits

  • Implications

    The DCPC provides reliable measures of U.S. consumer payment choices at a point in time (in this case, October 2016), but it does not yet offer unbiased estimates of the changes in consumer payment choices over time. This is because the questionnaire and sampling frame have evolved with each survey. However, the DCPC that was implemented in October 2017 is very similar to the 2016, and so it should provide an unbiased estimate of the actual changes in U.S. consumer payment choices relative to 2016. Research that uses the current and forthcoming DCPC data can enhance an understanding of how and why consumer payment choices vary over time, which is an area where the economics literature presently provides little guidance.

  • Abstract

    This paper describes key results from the 2016 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (DCPC), the third in a series of diary surveys that measure payment behavior through the daily recording of U.S. consumers' spending. In October 2016, consumers paid mostly with cash (31 percent of payments), debit cards (27 percent), and credit cards (18 percent). These instruments accounted for 76 percent of the number of payments, but only 34 percent of the total value of payments, because they tend to be used more for smaller-value payments. Electronic payments accounted for 43 percent of the value of payment but only 14 percent of the number of payments. The average value of a cash transaction was $22, compared to $112 for the average noncash transaction (and $84 for all transactions). The average value of consumers' holdings of cash on their persons (in pocket, purse, or wallet) was $57, and the median was $24. Given uncertainty about the comparability of point estimates from the 2015 DCPC and the 2016 DCPC, this report includes confidence intervals and probability-based estimates of the changes in consumer payment behavior from 2015 to 2016.