Use of Cash and Checks Declines, But Has Not Disappeared

There are opportunities in foodservice to cater to customers who prefer cash—like for pizza delivery.

March 24, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Consumers have shown a growing interest in paying for purchases digitally, causing the popularity of cash to take a major hit. In 2021, less than one-fifth (19.0%) of U.S. adults cited cash as their favorite method for in-person spending, according to the Federal Reserve. Techy young consumers and fewer low-value purchases are behind the decline in cash usage, reports Business Insider, although the Federal Reserve reports that 79% of U.S. adults hold cash daily.

Along with cash, paying by check is on a downhill slide. In October 2021, just 46% of U.S. adults said that they had used a check in the past 30 days, according to the Federal Reserve. Typically, consumers use checks to cover the occasional high-value transaction. But the convenience of online bill pay and mobile peer-to-peer payment apps are hastening a decline in check usage. Business transactions made with checks fell to 33.0% in North America last year, according to the Association for Financial Professionals. 

While transactions with cash and checks decline, debit and credit cards remain popular. An estimated 82% of U.S. adults have access to a debit card, per Pulse.

Despite evidence that cash is changing hands less often, DoorDash recently added cash payment to its delivery options, reports Called Cash on Delivery, the option allows restaurants using its DoorDash Drive white-label fulfillment tools to accept cash payments on delivery for digital orders. So far, Cash on Delivery is popular with customers at pizzerias. Pizza consumers select the cash payment method for nearly one in five transactions at pizzerias where the option is available.

While cash payments may not be the norm, they represent a huge opportunity for foodservice operators. PYMNTS’ study Digital Economy Payments: Going Digital to Pay for Travel and Restaurant Dining, which surveyed more than 3,200 U.S. consumers last year, found that 16% of restaurant customers paid for their most recent restaurant purchase in cash. That share amounts to $8.3 billion in cash spent on restaurant purchases in February 2022 alone.

A national survey conducted by NACS in February 2023 found that 24% of U.S. drivers paid by cash the last time they filled up at the pump. Drivers ages 18-34 were most likely to pay by cash (29%) and drivers age 65 and older were least likely to pay by cash (10%). The April 2023 issue of NACS Magazine will feature results from the latest NACS consumer survey.