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by Deanna Ting | August 24, 2015
New research released by Blackhawk Network, a provider of prepaid gift cards, payments tools and rewards, sees American consumers using a larger variety of payment options, with digital and mobile payments supplementing traditional cash- and card-based payment tools. In particular, nearly half of Americans are using retailer gift cards and Visa or MasterCard gift cards to make purchases. 

Blackhawk's survey, "How America Pays in 2015: Traditional, Digital and Mobile Convergence in Payments," asked more than 1,000 Americans in April 2015 to examine how they pay today, their preferences for traditional and emerging payments tools, and how safe Americans believe different payments tools to be. 

Overall, the survey found that when it comes to payments, American consumers will choose options that are most convenient. Cash, checks, and cards still the most used payments methods with select digital offerings close behind. 

"Consumers still have a strong preference for traditional payment methods like debit cards and prepaid cards," said Teri Llach, chief marketing officer at Blackhawk Network. "Those payments tools are not going away anytime soon, even as interest in and usage of new payment methods grows. Our findings prove that payments is not either/or when it comes to legacy payments versus emerging products; it's really about convenience and providing a mix of options."

According to the survey, respondents used the following payment methods over the last year:

o   Ninety-three percent used cash                         

o   Sixty-eight percent used debit cards                               

o   Sixty-eight percent used checks                                      

o   Sixty-seven percent used credit cards                                       

o   Sixty-two percent used PayPal                             

o   Forty-eight percent used retailer gift cards      

o   Forty-five percent used Visa or MasterCard gift cards

o   Thirty-three percent used prepaid debit cards

o   Fourteen percent made mobile payments on smartphones or tablets

New payment methods, such as mobile payments, are growing, while use of cash and checks is declining. Sixty-eight percent of mobile payment users report that they are using the alternative payment methods more than last year. Cash and checks saw the greatest declines in use overall.

Gift cards remain popular. Eighty-seven percent of consumers surveyed think merchant-specific gift cards are convenient to use, a number that is even higher than bank-connected debit cards (82 percent). Additionally, gift cards are now mainstream payment methods with almost half of consumers (48 percent) using them in the last year.

Mobile wallets now used by 25 percent of smartphone owners, and 64 percent of users have debit cards in their mobile wallets, 58 percent have credit cards, and 45 percent have gift cards.

Cash and cards are still considered most convenient payment methods; checks and bitcoin are considered to be the least convenient. When asked to select the most convenient payment methods, consumers selected cash (93 percent), credit cards (92 percent), PayPal (90 percent), and retailer-specific gift cards (87 percent). Ranking most inconvenient were bitcoin and checks.