December 12, 2012, 10:47 AM

Consumers expect mobile phones will replace cash and credit cards, eventually

But they believe that day is at least five years away, poll says.

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More than 60% of U.S. adults believe payments made via smartphones will replace credit card and cash transactions in the future, yet only around 30% believe that will happen within the next five years, according to an online poll by market research firm Harris Interactive.

Harris polled 2,383 U.S. adults online between Nov. 14 and 19. Of the respondents, 66% say they think smartphone payments will one day replace card payments, but only 32% think that will happen in the next five years. Meanwhile, 61% say smartphones will one day replace cash payments, but just 26% think that will happen in the next five years.

The survey results illustrate some of the reasons why few consumers today pay with mobile phones in stores. The respondents, who could select multiple answers, cited the following obstacles to mobile payments:

  • 52% see no reason to switch from using cards or cash to make payments.
  • 51% don’t want to store sensitive information on their phone.
  • 50% do not use a smartphone.
  • 40% don’t want to transmit sensitive information to a merchant’s device.
  • 25% worry they will lose their mobile service or data connection and be left unable to make payments.
  • 15% worry a dead battery will leave them with the same problem.
  • 8% don’t understand how to use the technology.
  • 7% don’t know where they could make mobile payments.
  • 7% cite another reason as hindering their interest in using smartphones to make payments.

Among the ways phones could be converted into physical payment devices is to equip them with chips that communicate with payment terminals through a wireless connection, a technology called Near Field Communication. But NFC adoption is minimal, with players like Google Wallet just scratching the surface. Only 13% of survey respondents say they’ve used NFC to make a purchase. Close to 100 million NFC devices will ship in 2012, according to estimates from Forrester Research Inc., with the United Kingdom, Poland, Turkey, the United States and France leading the way in rolling out the technology, the firm reports. 

Another type of smartphone payment is with mobile apps and two-dimensional bar codes. Starbucks uses this method and has processed millions of dollars of transactions. In the poll, 26% of respondents say they’ve used a mobile app as a coupon to make a payment and 16% as a gift card. Meanwhile 17% of respondents say they’ve used a mobile scan as a transportation ticket and 15% say they’ve used one to gain admission to an event or movie.

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