What’s the State of Payments?
October 1, 2021

The latest findings from our 2021 Payments Report

InComm Payments recently completed our first annual Payments Report, an insightful research study focused on identifying consumer payment trends and market metrics. Our comprehensive proprietary research resulted in key insights and data collected from over 3,300 U.S. consumers in May 2021. Keep reading to uncover what type of payments consumers preferred most, which ones they’ve been actively using, and more takeaways from our Payments Report.

Favorite Ways To Pay


Debit cards came out on top as the favorite way to pay, followed by credit cards and cash. While traditional payments claimed the three highest spots, contactless methods made their way up the ranking, taking up the next three spots.

    Paying favorites:

    1. Debit Card 2. Credit Card 3. Cash 4. Mobile Wallet 5. Tap-and-Go 6. Personal Payment App

    Payment preferences were largely driven by three factors:

      Mobile Wallet Transactions


      Mobile wallets, defined as virtual wallets that store payment information on a mobile device, ranked high in usage and awareness. 67% of respondents said they were aware of mobile wallets as a way to pay, and more than two-thirds of mobile wallet users said they conduct transactions using mobile wallets at least once a month. Making purchases online was the number one use-case for mobile wallets, followed by in-store purchases and sending money to others.

      Top mobile wallet transactions:

        “My preferred way to pay is the mobile wallet because it’s safer, more sanitary, clean, and I’m less likely to touch anything and get sick.” 

        Trang, 34, Alabama

          Respondents ranked the top benefits of using mobile wallets, as convenience (32%), ease of use (31%) and speed (30%), followed by security (26%). Respondents also ranked the factors that would cause them to avoid payment apps. Fees were the leading barrier, followed by lack of need and security concerns.

          Mobile wallet downsides:

          1. Fees: 24%

          2. No need: 21%

          3. Security: 21%


          QR Code and Barcode Payments


          A little under half of respondents (43%) were aware of QR codes and barcodes as a way to pay. Of QR code and barcode users, 68% used them once a month, but about one-third rarely used them. Respondents identified speed and ease as the key benefits of using QR code and barcode apps. They also appreciated the contactless nature of code payments.

          QR code and barcode benefits:

            When asked why they would not use a QR code or barcode, consumers said:

              Conversely, respondents said that ease of use (32%), security (32%) and fast payment processing (30%) could convince them to use QR code and barcodes more often.

                New payment methods bring advantages but face challenges in awareness and trust

                  “I think I will continue to use contactless or digital payment apps and debit cards because they’re definitely safer, better, and easier to use than traditional methods.”

                  Stafford, 53, South Carolina

                    Paying With Cash


                    While new payment methods took the spotlight during the pandemic, cash rebounded from early hygiene fears and remains a top way to pay. Our report found that cash was consumers’ most-used payment method over the last three months, receiving the most “extremely satisfied” responses of all payment methods. Overall, 20% of respondents said they used cash daily. What’s more, 65% used cash multiple times a week, multiple times a month or monthly.

                    Convenience was the primary driver for cash users. Consumers mentioned that security concerns and transaction tracking were key benefits, too. Merchants that only accept cash also impacted its use.

                    Top reasons for cash transactions:

                      Cryptocurrency Use


                      Cryptocurrency has been a major story in financial markets this year, so it should come as no surprise that our report found that crypto users paid with their crypto wallets often; 72% did so at least once a month or more frequently. If you’re thinking that younger generations seem like the early adopters here, you’re likely correct; 70% of consumers who listed crypto wallets as their favorite way to pay are millennials.

                        Consumers value payment options that are seamless,
                        secure and convenient

                          Report Recap


                          Our report found that cash remained a dominant form of payment in the U.S. despite the pandemic. Its overarching convenience kept consumers using bills and coins in retail stores.

                          We discovered that new-to-market payment methods continue to face awareness gaps. For merchants to increase consumer acceptance and adoption, these payment methods will need to be communicated via targeted marketing like in-store signage and digital channels. We found that consumers were also hesitant to use payment apps due to security concerns. To earn consumers’ trust, it would be wise for merchants to create messaging that communicates the apps’ security advantages.

                          Overall, consumers value payment options that are seamless, secure and convenient. Whether accepting cash, card or a contactless QR code, merchants that employ the latest and most secure payment technology will have the greatest opportunity to expand their customer base and grow revenue.