2018 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice

Kevin Foster, Claire Greene, and Joanna Stavins
August 2019

The 2018 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice (SCPC) is the 11th in a series of annual studies that aim to gain a comprehensive understanding of the payment behavior of U.S. consumers. This report includes 16 tables showing detailed estimates of consumers' payment choices. The report also contains estimates of consumer activity related to banking, consumer assessments of payment characteristics, and a rich set of consumer and household demographic characteristics.

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

  • 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 2018, U.S. consumers made 72 payments per month on average, not a significant change from 2017. As in 2017, the most frequently used payment instruments were debit cards (34 percent of all transactions), cash (24 percent), and credit cards (23 percent). Over the 11 years of the survey, debit, cash, and credit have consistently been the most popular ways to pay. For the first time in 2018, debit cards replaced cash as the payment instrument used most frequently for in-person purchases.

    Some key findings about medium-term trends from 2015 to 2018 include the following:

    • The share of consumers adopting mobile apps or mobile online accounts (such as Android Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay) increased from 40 percent to 60 percent.
    • The share making a mobile payment at least once in the previous 12 months increased from one-fourth to one-third of consumers.
    • There was a statistically significant increase in the use of mobile banking, from 45 percent of consumers to 56 percent.
    • The share of credit card adopters who carried an unpaid balance steadily declined to 44 percent in 2018.

    Notable findings within the last year include the following:

    • While the number of online purchases per month increased slightly, from 5.6 per consumer in 2017 to 5.9 in 2018, the change was not statistically significant.
    • There was a statistically significant decline in the use of cash, from 19 payments per month to 17.
    • The use of paper checks continued to decline, from 6 percent of payments per month to 5 percent.
    • The share of consumers using bank account number payment (BANP) at least once in a month increased from 59 percent to 66 percent.
  • Datasets

    Derived Variables with Raw Data

    Raw Data

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

    Results