- By number of payments, U.S. consumers used cash, debit cards, and credit cards for the bulk of their payments during the survey period.
- Consumers' choice of payment instrument strongly correlated with the dollar value of the transaction. In particular, they often used cash for smaller-value payments.
- For recurring bill payments, consumers most commonly used electronic payments and checks.
- On average, half of consumers held $25 or less in their wallet, purse, or pocket. The average amount of cash held was $57.
- The most commonly held bill was $1 (47.5 percent of all bills), followed by $20 (26.8 percent) and $5 (13.2 percent).
The Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (DCPC), a payment diary conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, measures payment behavior through the daily recording of spending by type of payment instrument. Since 2008, the Boston Fed has annually conducted the Survey of Consumer Payment Choice (SCPC), which derives data from respondents' recall of their recent typical payment behavior. The DCPC was designed, in part, to validate and supplement the SCPC. The SCPC and DCPC both find that cash and debit are the most frequently used payment instruments.
The DCPC has added detailed information about individual transactions that is not included in the SCPC. In particular, it collects data on the dollar value and merchant type for each transaction. The DCPC also obtains information about locations for retail purchases and bill payments conducted in person, online, or by mail. Such data can be used to improve understanding of consumer payment preferences and decisions.
This paper includes the official tables and reports the main results from the 2012 DCPC, the first edition of the survey. It involved about 2,500 participants and was conducted in October 2012.
This paper describes the results, content, and methodology of the 2012 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice (DCPC), the first edition of a survey that measures payment behavior through the daily recording of U.S. consumers' spending by type of payment instrument. A diary makes it possible to collect detailed information on individual payments, including dollar amount, device (if any) used to make the payment (computer, mobile phone, etc.), and payee type (business, person, government). This edition of the DCPC included about 2,500 participants and was conducted in October 2012. During that month, U.S. consumers on average made about two payments per day. For the month, they paid mostly with cash (40 percent of payments) and debit cards (24 percent), followed by credit cards (17 percent). For recurring bill payments, consumers most commonly used electronic payments and checks. Like other payment-value data, the DCPC data show correlations between the choice of payment instrument and the dollar value of expenditure. For example, consumers tend to use cash more often than other instruments for small-value payments. The results of subsequent editions of the DCPC are reported in separate papers.