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Survey: Most millennials pay for cheap items with credit, debit cards

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If you’re 50 or older, a new survey says you probably pay for inexpensive items like gum or a newspaper with cash.

The survey also shows that most Millennials will use a credit or debit card to pay for purchases that are $5 or less.

USA Today says 77 percent of those 50 or older said they still use cash for small purchases.

“Millennials have grown up doing things like going to school and using a prepaid card to pay for lunch. For a lot of younger folks, cash is just something that they don’t carry around,” Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for, told USA Today.

Schulz sees the trend of plastic replacing cash picking up steam as Millennials and the presumably even more tech-savvy generation after them grow older. The switch to plastic is picking up for a few reasons:

• Technology has made paying with cards just as fast as paying with cash.

• Rewards programs have made charging attractive.

• Banks have spent decades getting consumers and merchants comfortable with cards.

The survey of 983 credit card holders shows that most young people overwhelmingly use debit cards at the cash register. Respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 favored debit over credit by almost a 3-to-1 ratio.

The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International for It found that 65 percent of Americans overall usually pay for purchases under $5 with cash, with 22 percent using debit cards and 11 percent using credit.

It also found that 70 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats who have major credit cards would rather pay for small purchases with cash, while only 59 percent of independents would do the same. Also, respondents who graduated from or attended college were significantly more comfortable — 39 percent to 16 percent — than all others with using debit or credit cards for small purchases.

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