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$5 coffee? Cash or card depends on age, says CreditCards.com
MADISON, Wis. (8/28/14)--Consumers, especially the younger generation, are using credit and debit cards for the smallest of purchases, such as cups of coffee and packs of chewing gum, according to a new survey by CreditCards.com.

About 1 in 3 consumers typically use a credit card or a debit card for in-person purchases of less than $5, according to a national telephone survey of 983 adult U.S. credit card holders. Roughly 11% prefer credit cards, 22% use debit cards, and 65% still pay with cash.

The penchant for plastic is stronger with the 18- to 29-year-old demographic. About 51% of consumers in that category prefer plastic to cash, the only age group to do so. A preference for cash becomes stronger in each advancing age bracket, until at age 65-plus, 82% prefer cash.

The younger consumers are, the more likely they are to reach for a card. Among consumers 49 years old and under, 52% prefer cash, and 46% prefer debit or credit cards. Among those 50 or older, 77% still prefer cash, with 21% reaching for debit cards or credit cards.

Those who graduated from or attended college are more comfortable than others using plastic for small purchases.

A combined 39% of those with college degrees prefer debit cards (21%) or credit cards (18%) over cash (59%). Only 16% of those who have not attended college usually use debit cards for purchases of less than $5, along with only 6% who prefer credit cards for that purpose.

Consumers with full-time jobs were more likely to use credit cards and debit cards for small purchases (42%) than those employed part time (34%) or than those who were unemployed (23%). People with children are more likely to use the cards for small purchases (41%) than those without children (30%).


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