October 10, 2013, 3:46 PM

57% of U.S. adults expect digital wallets to replace physical money

On average, 40% of them already carry less than $20 on their person.

Lead Photo

A look at the Google Wallet.

57% of U.S. adults say that digital wallets either have already or may within the next five years replace physical wallets, according to a new Visa survey. Already, 40% of the survey respondents carry less than $20 cash at one time, and 26% carry between $20 and $50, with the remaining 34% carrying more than $50.

The payment card network and market research firm GfK surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults by telephone in August for a report entitled, “The Way We Pay: e- and m-commerce Trends.”

One appeal of the digital wallet—which is a web-based account in which a consumer stores her payment information so that she need only verify orders before paying—may be that consumers avoid entering payment information multiple times, according to the report. 49% of respondents say the most annoying aspect of online shopping is needing to set up separate accounts with each e-retailer to make purchases.

The survey also found that 27% of U.S. smartphone owners and 24% of U.S. tablet owners have used their devices to buy something in the last year. Western consumers are likelier than their Midwestern or Southern peers to make purchases from smartphones, with 37% of them reporting doing so compared with 21% in the Midwest and 25% in the South. In part, that could stem from more Western consumers (60%) owning smartphones than do consumers in other regions, according to the survey, which did not break down smartphone ownership for other regions.

For all the consumers in the survey, 15% say they’ve scanned a QR code—a square pattern, either printed or digital, that links to a mobile web site when scanned—with their smartphones to make purchases, the survey finds. 86% say they’ve never used their mobile devices to look up product information and make a purchase online while standing in a retail store. And 53% of respondents say they never intentionally enter a store to test a product before they buy it online.

The survey also showed ways in which U.S. consumers say they’d be willing to make purchases via a smartphone or tablet, if it were possible:

  • 30% say they would pay for public transportation with a mobile device;
  • 26% would pay at gas stations;
  • 22% at parking meters;
  • 20% to pay back friends; and
  • 19% to tip for services.
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