Millennials And Credit Cards: Are You Noticing The Trend?

by Paul Schlossberg
Posted On: 3/6/2019

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  Paul Schlossberg
Are you accepting credit and debit card payments? If not, are you planning to do it in 2019? If you answered "yes" to either question, here are some insights and data relating to how millennials are using (or maybe not using) credit cards.

There was a posted news item at Retail Dive – "Pay it down: How millennials' relationships with credit cards will change retail." The implications are important for our business and for retail stores in general. One key sentence speaks to the scope and buying power of this generation:" Over 83 million people, the group now represents one-quarter of the U.S. population."

Another important data point is: "A 2016 survey by revealed that only 33% of adults aged 18 to 29 own a (credit) card." Apparently the impact of The Great Recession and student debt from college loans are big issues for millennials. A survey of millennials, by, revealed that credit card debt ranks No. 1 as the scariest things in their daily lives; that was reported by 33% of respondents versus 20% who answered "Dying."  

An April 2018 article in U.S. News & World Report noted "Millennials are spending more on Visa debit cards than credit cards, with debit purchases growing at a higher rate than credit purchases." The difference between credit and debit cards is obvious. There is a strong appeal for millennials since one adds to debt. The other offers the convenience of a card payment but is subtracted immediately from your account – just like using cash without carrying cash.  

Many merchants offer ApplePay, PayPal or other payment alternatives. That allows the shopper to decide how to pay with or without the need for a credit card.  And, accepting mobile payments should absolutely be a part of your payment acceptance portfolio.

Maybe this posting is academic and overly simple. But let's dig just a bit deeper into the payment data in your daily operations. Specifically:  

1.  Track and monitor the overall share of payments in dollars and number of transactions for: (a) cash/bills; (b) credit cards; (c) debit cards; (d) digital – smartphone and various payment apps. That will allow you also calculate the average dollars per transaction for each.

2.  If possible, separate the data by location – especially for the largest and most important locations you serve.

3.  Next, you should be well aware of the demographic profile of your accounts. Look at the share by payment type at locations where you know there is a higher proportion of millennials. Is there a difference in non-cash payment data at those sites? Focus on debit card and digital payments.

4.  Are there differences between the service alternatives you operate? Do vending and micromarket sites have similar or different payment acceptance trends? If there are meaningful differences, you probably should dig deeper to see what is happening.

You're probably wondering: "Why bother collecting and analyzing all of this data? What is the 'so what' of digging through all of this data?" If you are not offering cashless acceptance at all locations, you might learn that there are clear benefits to bringing non-cash payments to more of the sites you serve.

Get smarter about the payment trends in your business. It is another step on the path to selling more stuff.

» Paul Schlossberg is president of D/FW Consulting, working with clients to merchandise and market products in impulse-intense selling environments, such as vending, onsite foodservice and convenience stores. Based in the Austin, TX, area, he can be reached at or (972) 877-2972 or