Survey: Consumers increasingly using credit cards for smaller purchases

WASHINGTON — More and more people are using credit cards to charge smaller items, and this trend is especially common among millennials, a new survey finds.

Out of 674 cardholders, 17 percent used credit cards for purchases of $5 or less; up from 11 percent from a 2016 survey.

People who preferred to pay small transactions with cash or debit cards dropped by 3 percent.

“There was a time when you just didn’t use your credit card for certain kinds of purchases,” said Susan Herbst-Murphy, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. “That has changed.”

What is encouraging this changed behavior?

Matt Schulz, a senior analyst with, suggests that credit card perks for high monthly spending can be a contributor to the more frequent use of credit cards, since 60 percent of cardholders also still preferred to use plastic in purchases more than $500.

Overall, Americans are shifting away from paying with cash and opting in on plastic.

“It’s become much more socially acceptable to go cashless,” said Utpal Dholakia, a marketing professor at Rice University, who studies consumer behavior. “I have less than $20 in my wallet because I hardly ever use cash.”

Despite this finding, however, baby boomers and seniors still prefer to pay with cash, with 70 percent of them who are cardholders still using cash for items under $5. surveyed 1,001 people over the phone between March 16 to 19 to gather the results of its study.

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