The way people pay has changed a great deal in recent years. A decade ago, many were complaining about the way young people used credit cards for small purchases—these days it seems like everyone does it. A decade ago, the first iPhone had just arrived—no one had yet imagined paying with it.

Yet these trends don’t capture the entirety of the payment landscape. Here are 3 statistics that may surprise people who don’t watch the industry closely:

1. Cash is the most widely used payment method
Many people think that the days of cash are long gone, and that modern consumers never use paper currency. Many analysts are constantly informing us that we’re headed toward a “cashless society.” And while maybe one day that cashless society will arrive, the fact of the matter is that we aren’t yet close.

Yes, credit cards and other payment methods have taken a huge share of transactions from cash over the past decade, but people are still using good old-fashioned cash in huge numbers. 451 Research recently conducted a survey of consumer spending habits, and found that cash is still in widespread use:

Myriad reports have declared paper currency is on its deathbed. However, 451 Research finds it remains the most widely used payment method, with 98% of US consumers using it for purchases over the past 90 days. The US Federal Reserve echoes this finding, noting consumers' average cash holding is actually increasing.

The consequences are very relevant for businesses in an era where many outlets are considering going cashless. 451 thinks that, for many merchants, this would be an unwise move:

The roots of cash are particularly deep in certain areas. According to the Fed, nearly two-thirds of sub-$10 transactions are still conducted via paper currency, meaning major merchant segments such as quick-service restaurants would be foolish to abruptly shun its use. Some segments of the population are especially reliant on its acceptance. The eradication of cash for the nine million US households that don't use a bank reported by the FDIC, for instance, would prove catastrophic.

2. There are 17.3 billion checks used in the US every year
In the same way that people assume cash has nearly disappeared, many people think checks are now useless, too. Yet the fact of the matter is that checks remain in widespread use.

According to the 2016 Federal Reserve Payments Study in 2016, there were 17.3 billion checks used in 2015, for a total value of $26.83 trillion. That was a 4.4% decrease since 2012, but that’s a slow decline. The numbers are still massive, and it’s clear that the death of checks has been exaggerated.

Certainly, millennials do not use checks nearly as much as previous generations. But the numbers show that companies still need to be able to process checks. Allowing customers to pay how they want is a simple step to improved customer satisfaction.

3. Online sales are less than 20% of total sales
Many casual observers assume that the brick-and-mortar vs. e-commerce war is on its last legs and Amazon has won, but it’s just not true yet. In the hectic 2016 holiday shopping season, for instance, the National Retail Foundation found that “non-store sales” (which includes e-commerce) comprised just 18% of the total sales for the season. And that’s during the hectic holiday season—for the rest of the year, it was only about 11%.

Of course, just as important to note is the rate of growth. In the holiday season, non-store sales increased twice as fast as total sales, so it’s clear that online growth is becoming more and more important.

Still, in an era of rapid change, brick-and-mortar stores remain important. Just like cash and checks.

​​3 Surprising Stats About Modern Payments

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