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A Thing Results

The Results Are In!

The Green Sheet, Inc., and Opinion Research Corporation have just completed an extensive, statistically valid survey of a cross section of the U.S. adult population to determine Americans' payment habits and preferences. The results show that Americans are more in love with their checking accounts than ever.

The original research (released for the first time in these pages of The Green Sheet) confirms the hypothesis that checks are THE payment method consumers prefer. In fact, cash, which has always been considered the preferred method, tied with checks!

The survey queried consumers as to which payment mechanisms they have, which they use, and which they prefer. It also asked consumers to report their feelings about individual payment methods. While none of the responses surprised us, they may surprise those who have been predicting the demise of the paper check for decades.

For example, when queried as to which payment methods they have, the results were as follows:

Checking Account 86%

Credit Cards 70%

ATM Card 57%

Debit Card 32%

None 9%

Don't know 1%

Multiple responses accepted.



Among the supposed "techno-savvy" 18-34 year old demographic, only 55% have a credit card and only 40% have a debit card. Proponents of credit and debit have said consumers in this age group use cards, rather than checks. However, 88% responded that they have a checking account (a higher percentage than the survey, overall) more than any other payment mechanism.

When responses are broken down by household income, the results show that across the board (for incomes less than $15K to more than $50K), more people have checking accounts than any of the other payment mechanism. Furthermore, of the 86% who have a checking account, 73% believe their check use will stay the same or increase. That means that 81% of those who use checks plan to use them just as much or more, in the future. It doesn't look like the check is disappearing, does it?



When queried about debit cards, again we weren't surprised by the results. While 32% of the respondents have a debit card, only 19% of respondents have used a debit card in the last seven days. So, while the number of debit cards may be increasing consumers don't seem to be using them.

When asked how they feel about debit cards replacing checks, 32% of respondents don't know how they feel about it, or have no opinion. Of the remaining 67%, 51% dislike the elimination of checks in favor of debit cards.

The one response that did surprise us was, when respondents were asked about their preferred payment method, cash and check TIED. It's almost an unwritten law. Cash is always the preferred method. ALWAYS. But, our survey showed that consumers feel so strongly about their CHECKS, they prefer to use them just as much as cash. And, among those 35 and older, checks were the preferred method, preferred even to cash.


One finding that should be of interest to all merchants is that as income increases, the cash preference decreases. Therefore, merchants must offer an alternate payment method to cash, especially for large ticket items. What is alarming is that one quarter of the respondents reported that they have been asked to submit a different form of payment when they actually preferred to write a check. That means lost sales.

Respondents were also asked to identify the payment method they use most often and (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) again, checks received the highest response (47%). In fact, when the credit card, ATM, and debit responses are added together, the total is only 19%! Less than half that of checks.

Checks also received the highest response when the subjects were asked which payment method is the most helpful when budgeting money. At 54% checks were twice that of the nearest response (cash at 25%). This feeling that checks are the most helpful method when budgeting money did not vary across age groups or income levels. Consistently, checks also were the payment method that respondents feel give them the most control over spending habits.


What may come as a surprise to those who believe checks are preferred because of the float they offer, survey respondents were disinterested with an extension of credit or float. When asked what influences their choice of payment method, (multiple answers were allowed) only 22% cited extension of credit as a factor. Convenience and simplicity received the highest response (63% and 45%) and were the favorites among all ages and income brackets. Since simplicity and convenience are the factors which influence preference and checks are a preferred method, then consumers view checks as simple and convenient.

Twenty-three respondents provided alternate responses to, "What influences your choice of payment method?" Some of those responses were:



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