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Using data from the 2021 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice, this article investigates two questions: how do consumers without credit or debit cards make payments, and do consumers without these payment cards differ from other consumers?

Key findings:

  1. Consumers without cards use cash for three-quarters of their payments, compared to about one-fifth for consumers overall.
  2. Consumers without cards are four times as likely to use a prepaid card as other consumers and use these cards for 8 percent of their payments.
  3. Consumers without cards could rely on household members, other family, or friends to make online and bill payments.
  4. Most consumers have a credit or debit card: 93 percent of US consumers 18 and older.
  5. Consumers without cards have a lower median household income: $10,000. In contrast, consumers with credit cards have $75,000 median household income, and consumers with only debit cards have $35,000.

Center Affiliation: Economic Survey Research Center

JEL classification: D63, E42, J15

Key words: payment choice, payment card adoption, payments inclusion, unbanked


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