A new poll from Synergistics Research Corp. has found that 45% of consumers rely mostly on credit or debit cards at the point of sale but that, when bill-paying and other transactions are taken into account, check writing still dominates other payment vehicles.
Last December Synergistics surveyed 800 people whose incomes exceed $25,000 about their payment habits. When asked what type of payment method they prefer in retail situations, 28% said they mainly use credit cards, and 17% said they generally use debit cards. But cash and checks proved just as popular. Among the respondents, 27% said they preferred to write checks at the point of sale, and 24% said they preferred to use cash. The remaining 4% did not respond or said they did not know.
When Synergistics asked people whether their reliance on credit cards had changed, most said their use had remained the same. On the other hand, "the results only indicate that people increased the use of debit cards," said Genie M. Driskill, chief operating officer and senior vice president of research at Synergistics, a consulting and research firm in Atlanta.
Moreover, Ms. Driskill predicted that cards would not soon gain much market share in point of sale transactions. "People still write a lot of checks," she said.
When the researchers asked how often people used various payment instruments during a month, checks again came out on top.
The number of checks the respondents said they wrote per month averaged 20.1; credit card transactions, 12.8; debit card transactions, 11.1; and automated teller machine transactions, 6.2.
Synergistics said it chose households with incomes of more than $25,000 because they were more likely to have credit cards than were households with lower incomes. This demographic covers 61% of U.S. households with telephones, the firm said.
Ms. Driskill said future surveys may include a payment mix that includes electronic checks, smart cards, stored value cards, and bill payments by personal computer.
"Depository institutions, which are currently the dominant players in the payment system," she said, "need to realize that failing to give customers all the transactions choices they want may result in losing part or all of the customers relationship to third-party competitors that will fill the void."