Diary of Consumer Payment Choice

Together, the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice and Survey of Consumer Payment Choice create a comprehensive picture of U.S. consumers' payment preferences and behavior. Payments data is collected in the context of cash holdings, checking account balances, credit card debt, and income receipt, among other variables. The Survey and Diary are representative surveys of U.S. consumers; demographic data is included.

For information on how the Atlanta Fed handles participant data from this survey, please refer to our online privacy policy.

  • Latest Update

    Updated on June 4, 2021

    The 2020 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice measures payment behavior through the daily recording of U.S. consumers' spending. It includes estimates of the number, value, and average value of payments that all U.S. adult consumers made using the various U.S. payment instruments. It also includes estimates of cash held on person by denomination of currency, and it discusses changes in payment choice and cash holdings from 2019 to 2020.

    • In October 2020, U.S. consumers made most of their payments with debit cards, credit cards, and cash.
    • Consumers' mix of payments changed in 2020. Purchases declined from 31 per month in 2019 to 26.1 in 2020. The number of bills paid per month was stable at 8.4.
    • Online or mobile purchases of goods and services increased from 17 percent of all purchases in 2019 to 24 percent in 2020 (as a share of both in-person and not-in-person purchases).
    • Of purchases not made in person, four in 10 were accomplished with a mobile phone.
    • U.S. consumers generally held more cash in 2020 than they did 2019. The average cash in a person’s pocket, purse, or wallet was $76.

    For every payment, the diary asks consumers to report day and time, amount spent, payment instrument used, whether or not a device (mobile phone, for example) was employed, and the type of business organization or person paid. Respondents also answer questions about checking account balances, income, and employment status.

    View the 2020 diary  View archived diaries

  • Archived Diaries