Cash is a Constant for Consumers
May 5, 2022

Merchants need ways to serve customers who rely on bills and coins

As you aim to attract greater numbers of paying customers to your store, it’s important to know how those customers are paying. Whether it’s with credit cards, personal checks or some new digital currency, understanding their preferences will help you calibrate your payment processing strategies to best earn and retain their business.

In its first annual Payments Report, InComm Payments collected key insights and data from over 3,300 U.S. consumers and found some illuminating results; namely, that cash is going strong as a way to pay. While many new payment methods ascended the main stage during the pandemic, the report uncovered that cash was consumers’ most-used payment method, receiving the most “extremely satisfied” responses of all payment methods.

      • 75% of consumers use cash daily, several times a week, or several times a month. Only 1% never use it.
      • More consumers used cash recently than any other traditional form of payment (74%), followed by debit cards (65%) and credit cards (64%).

For cash-preferred consumers, cash is a constant in their daily lives. They may choose to use it for money management reasons; they won’t be tempted to overspend like they might with a credit card. These consumers also like the security cash offers; less risk of credit card numbers being compromised or identity theft. There’s also the plain fact that bills and coins are indispensable in many situations. For instance, some stores don’t accept payment with debit or credit cards, or they may require a minimum purchase amount to use plastic. In these scenarios, not carrying cash would be a risky move for a shopper.

The InComm Payments Report found that consumers tend to pay in cash for smaller expenses like a cup of coffee or public transportation. Consumers said they most often use cash for these transactions:

68% – Tipping
52% – Everyday purchases
46% – Paying for a service to someone they know
33% – Paying for a service to someone they don’t know
37% – Transportation (bus, train, taxi)


Four reasons why consumers use cash:

    1. Convenience (48%)
    2. Security (35%)
    3. Cash-only merchants (30%)
    4. Anonymity (28%)

Source: InComm Payments 2021 Payments Report

We’ve covered cash-preferred consumers, but there’s another group who use cash because they have few other options. These individuals may lack a solid credit history to secure a credit card, or they don’t have a bank account, making them largely cash dependent. According to a 2020 FDIC study, in 2019, 5.4 percent of U.S. households were unbanked, representing approximately 7.1 million households. This is a substantial audience who relies on cash to make payments – and they face several onerous challenges:

      • Paying bills or making a purchase online can be prohibitive without a credit or debit card or a digital wallet.
      • Unlike a credit or debit credit card, there is no protection when cash is lost or stolen. And once the cash is gone, it’s likely gone for good.
      • Cash-preferred customers miss out on points or rewards tied to a credit card or loyalty program.

All too often, unbanked individuals have been overlooked because they’re considered risky or unprofitable. However, these consumers make up the bedrock of a potentially profitable walk-in bill payment market. Enabling financial inclusion – or offering cash-based solutions that help this large consumer group participate in the modern economy – can improve their financial well-being and position your store as a valuable neighborhood resource.


“I definitely am the type of person who likes to have cash on me and kind of use the debit card as just a backup.” 

Jeanne, 55,
Fremont, OH


It would be wise to offer consumers some kind of cash workaround – to be more inclusive, which could help attract their business. Cash digitization solutions – such as InComm Payments’ VanillaDirect™ – allow consumers to convert their cash, enabling your customers to use their cash to pay bills and fund prepaid accounts conveniently – right in your store. Integrating this payment technology into your point of sale will allow you to process a wide range of cash transactions; from paying phone bills to loading public transportation accounts.

Products like VanillaDirect Load™ and VanillaDirect Pay™ can help you drive cash-preferred consumers to your location, which could generate considerable revenue opportunities. For instance, customers coming in to load cash onto a GPR card account or pay a utility bill will often make an additional purchase while they’re there. In addition to impulse purchases, becoming a provider of these financial services can help you drive repeat visits.


“Now I find that I am taking cash out of the bank, keeping it in my wallet, and then paying for more things with cash.”

Micaela, 36,
Eagle Point, OR 


While new payment options continue to enter the market, cash is still widely used and relied upon. Consumers like that cash doesn’t discriminate and it doesn’t carry any fees when they spend it – and some are tied to it without traditional bank accounts. So it’s important that your store utilizes innovative ways to serve cash-preferred customers – or they could spend their dollars and coins somewhere else.

For more information about the InComm Payments 2021 Payment Report, click here.

To learn more about VanillaDirect’s innovative cash-based payment solutions, click here.