Millennials Not the Mobile Payment Devotees Expected

February 28, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

If there was one thing a lot of mobile payments companies thought about millennials, it was that this was their market of choice. The millennials were supposed to be squarely in mobile payments’ corner, even as generations on both sides wavered.

A new report, however, suggests there’s still room for cash in the millennial philosophy.

The report in question—the Accel + Qualtrics Millennial Study 2017—notes that not only do 42 percent of millennials still write checks routinely, 80 percent of them still carry cash. That’s a point that’s actually recommended by some financial professionals; a cash-only operation is a great way to stick to a budget as it limits the amount of extra purchases a customer can engage in.

Once there’s no longer cash in a wallet, after all, one either must get more or stop spending. That’s not the case with mobile payments, which will run to the limit of a bank account or credit limit.

That’s a point that’s felt all over; Gen Y Planning founder and CNBC Digital Financial Advisor Council member Sophia Bera noted that using Venmo felt “…like magical money.” Bera elaborated “You forget that it is money, like any money, and that is bad.”

Underscoring Bera’s point was Qualtrics head of brand growth and mobile insights Mike Maughan, who noted that millennials’ image of being “…freewheeling nomads who move around with only a smartphone and payment apps in their pockets” was actually not that correct.

Not only did 80 percent use cash, but 64 percent carried cash “most of the time.” Fully four times the number of millennials that used a leading mobile payment platform used cash, and three times that number turned to checks.

Basically, this is bad news for mobile payment providers but only in a measured sense. Millennials are not the voracious users once thought, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the picture. It means that mobile payment providers will have to do more to demonstrate value to all users, and not just millennials.

Mobile payments providers can’t take any part of the market for granted, and that’s likely good news for the customer base who will get a lot more value out of this field directly.