American payment habits in 2016

American payment habits in 2016

Second annual Blackhawk Network shopper study finds consumers driving payments innovation, payments experience can impact brand perception

Americans’ utilization of a wide array of payments options, and their demand for others, is driving innovation in the payments category. Additionally, the payment process while shopping has become increasingly important, now ultimately influencing consumers’ perceptions of and loyalty to a brand. This, along with the year’s most used payments tools, was revealed today in a new research study from Blackhawk Network.

Experience the interactive Multimedia News Release here

The research, “How America Pays in 2016,” surveyed more than 1,000 Americans in March 2016 to examine how they pay today, their preferences for traditional and emerging payments tools and the role payments play in their purchasing decisions. An infographic detailing the payments research can be viewed here.


“The role of payments in Americans’ lives is increasing in importance. Consumers now have so many payment tools at their disposal; they can be selective about how they pay, and are even influenced on where to shop based on their experiences paying,” said David Tate, senior vice president of products and marketing at Blackhawk Network, a pioneer of prepaid gift cards, payments tools and rewards delivered via a robust and convenient network. “This year, we are seeing consumer-driven innovation in payments; gift cards are being used for self use, peer-to-peer payments have a foothold, mobile wallets continue to rise in adoption and the gift card exchange industry has taken off. Not surprisingly, among this innovation, the role of some legacy payments tools, like checks, continues to decline.”


Key findings from the “How America Pays in 2016” commercially available consumer survey, now in its second year, include:

    – Brand perception and loyalty is directly related to payment experience: More than three quarters of the consumers surveyed (78 percent) report that their experience paying affects their overall perception of a website, and willingness to visit it again. Sixty-nine percent report their experience paying affects their perceptions of a store or restaurant and their willingness to go back.

    – Consumers drive payments innovation: By spurring the creation of new payments technologies, finding alternative applications for existing payments tools or embracing a wide array of burgeoning payments products, consumers are inciting significant innovation in payments. For example, 19 % of consumers have now used a gift card exchange, a tool born directly out of consumer demand. Six percent of smartphone owners now use peer-to-peer payments–a novel technology that provides a quick and inexpensive alternative to money transfers or checks. Additionally, 44 % of consumers plan to purchase gift cards for self-use this year, a trend that retailers and marketers are now seizing on.

    – Roles of checks, cash declining: Eighty-seven percent of Americans used cash to pay in the last year, down from 93 % the year before. Consumers are primarily using cash for purchases of USD 20 or less. Check usage is also declining; 60 % of Americans used checks in the last year, versus 68 % the year before. The primary circumstances in which people use checks are to pay bills (23 %) and pay other individuals (18 %).

    – Consumers have embraced alternative payments tools: Mobile wallet adoption is up eight percent over last year. Of consumers who have used mobile wallets and peer-to-peer payments, 80 % report they are using mobile wallets the same amount or more than they did last year, and 73 % are using peer-to-peer payments the same amount or more than they did last year. Adoption of these payments methods among smartphone owners is also significant: 33 % have a mobile wallet and six percent use peer-to-peer payments.

    – Millennials go modern: This demographic, often coveted by retailers and marketers, have specific preferences when it comes to payment tools. Not surprisingly, millennials use newer payments methods at a higher rate than the general population, including mobile wallets and peer-to-peer payments, and they use cash slightly less.

    – Shoppers’ love for gift cards remains: While other payments tools wax and wane in popularity, gift cards have remained popular for many years. Retailers should not take this revenue stream for granted. 84 % of shoppers plan to purchase more or the same amount of gift cards this year as they did last year. And, 74 percent of consumers hope to receive gift cards this year. Additionally, 57 % of shoppers have unused gift cards and e-gifts right now, and more than half of shoppers would be interested in using a gift card exchange that is online or an in-store kiosk and 40 % would be interested in a mobile app gift card exchange.

    – Consumers have payment preferences for their rewards: When it comes to promotional and loyalty rewards paid to consumers by the stores where they shop or by the service providers they use, shoppers prefer prepaid debit cards and gift cards (45 %) and PayPal (38 %), over other payment options like checks or merchandise.

    –  e-Codes and e-gifts are complements to physical products: A full 69 % of consumers are now familiar with e-codes and e-gifts (digital gift cards delivered to recipients via email, social media or text message and discounted e-codes that can be purchased from sites like Groupon). More than half of consumers have purchased e-codes or e-gifts and plan to do so again this year. With adoption of plastic gift cards remaining high as well, it is evident that e-codes and e-gifts will remain a complement- not replacement for- traditional gift cards.

    – Cash and cards are still the most used payments methods with select digital offerings close behind: Shoppers used the following payment methods over the last year:consumers-are-driving-payments-innovation-1-HR

o   Cash: 87 percent

o   Debit card: 75 percent

o   Credit card: 69 percent

o   PayPal: 67 percent

o   Check: 60 percent

o   Merchant-specific gift card: 43 percent

o   Prepaid debit card: 38 percent

o   Money transfer: 18 percent

o   Mobile wallet: 17 percent

o   Peer-to-peer payments: five percent

o   Bitcoin: three percent

Blackhawk Network built its business on pioneering new branded payments products and solutions that shoppers love and widely adopt such as merchant-specific cards, prepaid debit cards and e-gifts. This success is rooted in Blackhawk’s expertise in shopper marketing and dedication to industry leading research on shopper behaviours and emerging trends.

How America Pays is an Internet-based survey conducted by Blackhawk Network in March 2016. The sample size included 1037 American respondents, ages 18+.

Blackhawk Network Holdings, Inc. is a leading prepaid and payments global company, which supports the program management and distribution of gift cards, prepaid telecom products and financial service products in a number of different retail, digital and incentive channels. Blackhawk’s digital platform supports prepaid across a network of digital distribution partners including retailers, financial service providers, and mobile wallets.


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