Paper or Plastic? 20+ Cash vs. Credit Card Spending Statistics

Written By
Julija A.
October 24,2023

Just like so many aspects of life in the 21st century, physical money is slowly giving way to a digital replacement. And while mobile payments are most popular in increasingly cashless societies like Sweden and Norway, Americans still prefer plastic, even though cash remains king for face-to-face transactions and cheap, everyday purchases.

On the other hand, credit and debit cards are used for 60% of $10-$100 transactions. The biggest value is reserved for electronic payment methods, which cover major expenses like bills and mortgage payments.

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Key Cash vs. Credit Card Spending Stats for 2024 - Editor’s Choice:

  • Americans carried an average of $73 in cash on them in 2023.
  • Cash accounted for just 18% of all payments in the US during 2022.
  • 37% of Americans have used virtual cards for purchases in 2023.
  • Us consumers have $1.28 trillion in revolving debt.
  • $5,733 - the average credit card debt for American consumers.

No clear winner can be declared on the basis of available data; cash is widely used, but other methods of payment are rising in popularity. We’re still in the midst of a transitional period, and the outcome is difficult to predict. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of payment method statistics from the most relevant resources, focusing on the cash vs. credit card stand-off.

82% of Americans had a credit card in 2022.

(The Federal Reserve)

Out of all the US citizens with credit cards last year, almost 50% of them carried balances from one month to another at least once.

93% of US consumers in 2023 said they will keep using cash in the future.

(Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)

The same report also found that only 2% of respondents will stop using cash entirely in the next two years.

18% of all payments in the US in 2022 were made with physical money.

(Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)

According to the most recent data, cash has seen another year of decline after a 2% increase in 2021, when 20% of payments were made with cash. Ever since 2020 and the pandemic, cash has finally lost its throne as king, and credit cards now make for 31% of all purchases made.

US consumers spent $758 billion in cash in 2022.

(Capital One)

The world's largest economy still relies heavily on cash, with more than $730 billion in ATM withdrawals made last year.

25% of Americans use credit cards to better maximize rewards.


The 2023 survey by Fool found that the biggest reason for getting more credit cards among Americans was to improve their credit scores, with 45% of respondents saying that. Also, 30% of the people surveyed wanted to have more credit and be able to spend more.

People use cash most often for everyday purchases, with more than half of transactions under $10 taking place in cash.

(US Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)

Even though cash represents a large volume of payments, the value of those payments is still low. 

It makes sense that the bigger the payment, the less likely one is to make it with cash. As the value of transactions rises, other forms of payment, like credit and debit cards, become more popular. 

Credit and debit cards combined account for 50%-60% of payments in the $10-$100 bracket. 

Above that limit, people typically use checks or automatic electronic payments to cover their most significant transactions, including mortgage repayments and debt installments. These two payment methods account for 50% of all transaction value.

The average value of credit card transactions in the US is $91.


There are twice as many individual transactions made in cash than using a credit card. The value of those transactions, however, is in favor of credit cards, with consumers spending 12%-18% more through credit cards. Debit cards sit somewhere in the middle, with slightly fewer total transactions than cash and a slightly lower average payment amount than credit cards.

Cash is used more frequently in low-income households; 12% of transactions in households with less than $40,000 a year are made using cash.


Comparatively, in households with an income of $100,000 or more, only 1% of respondents said they pay with cash for everything, while 16% claimed they don't use cash for any of their monthly purchases.

Revolving consumer credit in the US by September 2023 stood at $1.28 trillion.

(The Federal Reserve)

Credit cards aggregate revolving debt. By charging funds to your credit card, you’re borrowing that money from the bank with interest. When you repay $100 of your $500 debt at the end of the month, you can re-borrow (revolve) it again. 

Using a credit card responsibly is a great way to boost your credit score rating. However, using it incorrectly can cause immense problems in the long run.

There was $2.26 trillion worth of cash in circulation in the US by the end of 2022.


The advent of mobile payment platforms such as Apple Pay and Venmo has not hindered the increase of cash in circulation. From $240 billion in 1989 to $2.26 trillion in 2022, cash has not yet seen a year-on-year decline. Last year, there were $1.89 trillion worth of 100 dollar bills in circulation.

58% of American consumers in 2022 said they always have cash on hand.

(Pew Research Center)

While digital payments and credit cards are pushing out cash with each year, the vast majority of US citizens still make sure to have at least some cash on hand, while 42% said they didn't really worry if they had any on themselves. The biggest difference in this habit is seen in the age of surveyed Americans, with 71% of those older than 50 always having cash on them, compared to 45% of those younger than 50.

Only 14% of American consumers use cash for all their weekly purchases.

(Pew Research Center)

Another proof that cash is no longer king: Only 14% of American consumers use it for all their weekly purchases, according to the Pew Research Center. At the same time, 44% confirmed they use cash for some purchases, while 41% hardly ever use it.

These numbers show that the cashless culture is on the rise, with more people using credit and debit cards or mobile payment platforms to make purchases. In 2015, for example, 24% of respondents said they used cash for all or almost all of their weekly purchases, and 51% of the respondents used it for some of their purchases.

According to an MIT study, credit cards make people spend more money - sometimes up to 83% more.

(Marketing Letters)

In this study, researchers asked subjects to bid on various items, including tickets for sporting events, in a blind auction. They were all told that the highest bid would get the item. One group was told that they would need to pay in cash, and the other that they would have to pay using their credit card. 

The conclusion was that paying with plastic makes people spend more money. The average cash bid for Celtics tickets was $29, while cardholders offered a whopping $61. 

It looks like the heavy marketing campaigns for credit card rewards programs have really done the trick. Combined with the fact that it’s much easier to part with intangible money than it is to let go of physical paper, this means that even the average tip amount is 13% larger when paying with a credit card.

The average credit card debt in America in 2023 is $5,733.

(The Federal Reserve)

According to the latest report on credit card debt in America, the average per person is $5,733, while those in the 40-49 age bracket have the largest average debt of $7,600. The youngest Americans, in the 18-29 bracket had an average credit card debt of $2,900.

In 2023, some 33% of US credit card holders increased spending due to inflation.


The latest data also shows that 43% of Americans surveyed in the poll chose to use credit cards to keep up with the increasing cost of living.

In 2022, Americans held an average of $73 in cash in their pockets, purses, and wallets.

(US Federal Reserve)

How much cash do you carry around with you? It seems that if you’re a US citizen in the 25-34 age bracket, the answer is $41 on average. At the same time, those in the 65+ age group had an average of $106 in cash on them in 2022. So, the older you are, the more physical money you are likely to hold.

Cash is used for 19% of in-person payments.

(Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco)

Online shopping has not completely conquered the market yet. In fact, it isn’t even close; three-quarters of all transactions still take place in person.

From 2015 to 2017, the share of in-person transactions that took place in cash dropped by 1% per year. At the same time, while credit cards recorded a 4% increase in popularity during this period, according to cash vs. credit card spending statistics. 

However, if you look at the current consumer spending habits, you will see that things have drastically changed, and cash is no longer the preferred payment method for these transactions. 

According to the 2022 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice, only 19% of in-person payments in 2021 were made using cash. In contrast, credit cards accounted for 32% of all in-person payments, whereas debit cards were dominant with 44%.

37% of Americans have used virtual cards for purchases in 2023.


Virtual, or electronic cards, are on the rise globally, with 3 out of 5 people in the US at least hearing about them in 2023. Of all the consumers who already used virtual cards for purchases, 68% stated that the main reason for opting for this payment option was convenience.

80% of gifts and person-to-person transfers take place in cash.

(US Federal Reserve)

It seems there’s still something magical about receiving a wad of cash as a present, as opposed to getting that same amount via your online bank account. Four times out of five, that’s how people choose to treat someone they care about. 

However, credit cards are winning when it comes to general merchandise transactions. That’s a broad term describing all retail items that are not groceries. For these types of transactions, credit and debit cards are used 66% of the time, while cash holds a 23% share.

64% of US citizens ni 2022 stated that they believe their country will become a cashless society.


Some Nordic countries, like Sweden and Norway, are well on the way to becoming completely cashless, and it seems like the US might not be far behind. A study by Gallup showed that 64% of Americans think that cash will disappear one day. 

At the same time, only 21% of respondents believe this scenario is unlikely to happen, while 15% answered that they think this is very unlikely to happen. 

Expectedly, respondents from older age groups were less likely to think that the US would go cashless. While 45% of US adults said they would be upset if cash disappeared, just 9% said they would be "happy" to see this scenario unfold.

Based on multiple cash vs. credit card spending statistics, it’s evident that a cashless society is inevitable. The world is moving towards a future where physical money will no longer be necessary. 

Although some people believe a cashless society sounds like an amazing idea, others have reservations about it. The main concern is what would happen if the power went out and the servers went down. If everything became digital all of a sudden, how would we be able to access our money?

Final Thoughts

Now that we have seen what percentage of US transactions are cash and what percentage are processed with credit cards, it is time to draw some conclusions. Although cash remains one of the most popular methods of payment, credit cards are slowly but surely gaining ground. This is evident from the fact that the number of average credit card transactions per month has increased significantly in recent years.

When it comes to spending, people tend to use cash for smaller amounts and credit cards for substantial purchases. This is likely because they feel more comfortable carrying around a small amount of cash.

All things considered, it is clear that cash and credit cards are both important methods of payment in the US and that they will continue to shape the way people spend their money.


Why should you use cash instead of credit cards?


The decision should really depend on your spending habits. For those who tend to spend within their means and pay off their credit card balance in full each month, then using credit cards can be a great way to earn rewards like cash back or points that can be used for travel. 

However, if you're someone who often carries a balance on their credit card or tends to spend more than they can afford, then using cash may be a better option.

Do people prefer cash or credit?


The cash vs. credit card dilemma boils down to your preferences. Some people prefer to use cash because they like to have more control over their spending. They may also feel like they can better track their finances when using cash. 

Other people prefer credit cards because they like the convenience and rewards that come with using them. Ultimately, it's up to the individual to decide which payment method works best for them.


About author

Albert Einstein is said to have identified compound interest as mankind’s greatest invention. That story’s probably apocryphal, but it conveys a deep truth about the power of fiscal policy to change the world along with our daily lives. Civilization became possible only when Sumerians of the Bronze Age invented money. Today, economic issues influence every aspect of daily life. My job at Fortunly is an opportunity to analyze government policies and banking practices, sharing the results of my research in articles that can help you make better, smarter decisions for yourself and your family.

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