Cash or Card: Where Do You Stand?


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Written by: Benjamin Smith | Best Company Editorial Team

Last Updated: February 24th, 2020

man holding wallet with cash and cards in it

Do you remember the last time that you pulled out your wallet to grab some bills or coins to purchase something? What about the last time that you pulled out your credit card and either inserted the chip or swiped to make your payment?

Joe Sanberg, co-Founder of and founder of Working Hero Action, explains
“Businesses that want to reach younger generations need to be able to adapt to the shift away from cash, or risk being left behind. From debit and credit cards to peer-to-peer payment systems and online banking, this is how more and more consumers are making transactions. When it comes to connecting with the new wave of consumers, cash is definitely not king.”

As of 2018 in the United States, only 24 percent of U.S. citizens use cash for all of their purchases. It is projected that this number will continue to drop over the upcoming years.

So why is cash becoming increasingly unpopular among consumers in the United States?


Have you ever found yourself at a store that only accepts cash and you don’t have any with you? What is your initial reaction? When I have been put in those situations, my immediate reaction was genuine frustration! I have been in the workforce for over a decade and have not been paid in cash for at least seven years. Why would I need cash to make a purchase?

Recent years have seen the inception of more intuitive and easy-to-use point of sale hardware and software that has allowed for debit and credit cards to be used in most businesses regardless of their size.

“Cards are more convenient than using cash,” adds Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful. “If you're meeting a friend for dinner, you don't have time to stop at an ATM for cash. Additionally, the ATM visit might charge you a fee while the credit card offers you rewards.”

Credit card rewards

When you sign up for a credit card, you are presented with a number of different options to best fit your needs. Some of these options may include cash back, gift cards or gifts, or travel credit.

Deacon Hayes, financial expert from Well Kept Wallet, suggests that credit and debit cards have an advantage over cash because of these added perks. He says, “Rewards are just one more incentive for the public to choose credit and debit cards over cash for their transactions. Some of those rewards include cash back, travel rewards, and other enticements. These are little extras you don't get from paying with cash.”

There’s another perk to keeping your cash in the bank instead of in your wallet. Nathan Wade, Managing Editor for WealthFit Money explains, “The majority of cards hold perks and bonuses whereas holding cash doesn't. Perks may include cash back, hotel stays, and airline trips. Not to mention, your savings account often builds interest that comes back to you; by having your savings sit in your bank account, you're actually making more money in the long-run.”

woman making a purchase online with a credit card

Transaction protection

Credit cards have come a long way over the years. Though many were skeptical of the safety in the transactions made with credit cards for a time, it is now one of the fastest, easiest, and best ways to make a purchase. One of the perks that comes with using a credit card for a purchase is the protection that it provides to you during and after the sale.

Jordan Tarver, Credit Analyst for, knows that "Many people have decided to use credit cards over cash because it's simply safer, and credit cards offer more protection. Most credit cards provide cardholders with fraud protection, which protects you in case you lose your card or someone steals your credit card information. Using credit cards instead of cash means you that you can recoup your losses much faster. If someone stole your wallet and cash, the chances of getting your money back are slim. However, if your credit card is stolen, all future purchases made aren't your responsibility."

Oliver Brown, a credit industry analyst from Credit Card Insider also feels that credit cards provide additional consumer protections not offered by cash or debit cards. When using a credit card you are able to reverse the charges if a merchant acts wrongfully. This might include charging your for damaged goods, failing to deliver your order, or trying to move forward with unauthorized charges to your card.

paying for food with a credit card

Loss and recovery

Have you ever walked into a checkout line and found that the cash you thought you had is no longer in your pocket or wallet. Most people find it better not to carry cash at all to avoid this discouraging experience.

“Carrying cash isn't the safest practice. There is much more security and protection for cardholders. If you lose cash on the street or if it gets stolen, there's not much you can do about it. However, if you have a bank account and someone hacks into your account, most banks will cover it,” says Wade.

Why some people still use cash

Some people are unconvinced with the perks provided by credit cards and other newer payment methods that have largely replaced cash payments. Jeff Rose, CFP and CEO for Good Financial Cents provides three reasons why he believes that people are still using cash:

  • Budget control — You can't overspend when you're on an all-cash system. You only have what you have. This makes saying no to unnecessary expenses much easier.
  • Distrust of personal privacy and security — Some people simply dislike the idea of everything they do being tracked and recorded. They are also often worried about identity theft.
  • Saving money — For some purchases, you can get a better deal using cash, especially at smaller businesses. They are forced to pass along their credit card transaction fees to customers, so customers can avoid this additional expense by using cash.

When you shop, there is no right or wrong answer regarding your payment method of choice. If you are wanting to shop online, cash is certainly not your friend, but the vast majority of stores still accept cash payments. In order to ensure the security of your credit card transactions, top-of-the-line encryption technology has been integrated into point of sale software to ensure that your information is kept private and that payments are accurate.

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