The 2017 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice

2018 • No. 18–5
By Claire Greene and Joanna Stavins

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This report contains key results from the 2017 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (DCPC), the fourth in a series of diary surveys that measure payment behavior through the daily recording of U.S. consumers' spending. 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 2016 to 2017.

  • Key Findings

    • In October 2017, the period covered by this DCPC, consumers made most of their payments with cash (30.3 percent of payments), debit cards (26.2 percent), and credit cards (21.0 percent).
    • While the aforementioned instruments accounted for more than 77 percent of the number of payments, they were used for only 39 percent of the total value of payments.
    • Electronic payments accounted for 30.3 percent of the total value of payments but only 8.9 percent of the number of payments.
    • The average value of a cash transaction was $23.4, compared with $109.3 for the average noncash transaction.
    • On average, an adult consumer made 1.3 payments per day.
    • The average value of consumers' holdings of cash on their persons was about $60.
  • Exhibits

    Number and Average Value of Payments by Instrument, October 2017

    Payment Instrument Use for Purchases, Shares by Number and Value

    Payment Instrument Use for Bills, Shares by Number and Value

  • Interactive Charts

  • Implications

    The 2017 DCPC data show that consumers continue to use cash, debit cards, and credit cards to make most of their payments. The data also show little change from 2016 to 2017 in the shares of payments (as measured by number and value) that consumers make by payment instrument. However, there was a small but statistically significant decline in the total number of consumer payments from one year to the next, continuing a trend from 2015.

    Consistent with earlier editions of the DCPC, the 2017 survey found that consumers tend to use cash and cards for lower-value transactions, and electronic payments and checks for higher-value transactions. Consumers also tend to use cash and cards for purchases, but they are more likely to use electronic payments and checks to pay their bills.

  • Abstract

    This paper describes key results from the 2017 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (DCPC), the fourth in a series of diary surveys that measure payment behavior through the daily recording of U.S. consumers' spending. The DCPC is the only diary survey of U.S. consumer payments available free to the public. In October 2017, consumers paid mostly with cash (30.3 percent of payments), debit cards (26.2 percent), and credit cards (21.0 percent). These instruments accounted for three-quarters of the number of payments, but only about 40 percent of the total value of payments, because they tend to be used more for smaller-value payments. In contrast, electronic payments accounted for 30.3 percent of the value of total payments but only 8.9 percent of the number of payments. Checks, at 17.7 percent, continued to account for a relatively high percentage of the value of payments. The average value of a cash transaction was $23.4, compared with $109.3 for the average noncash transaction (and $83.3 for all transactions). The average value of consumers' holdings of cash on their persons (in pocket, purse, or wallet) was about $60.