With the advent of more sophisticated consumer financing technologies and services, consumers have more options to pay for goods and services, resulting in new spending trends.
While credit cards are still a primary method of unsecured borrowing for US consumers, their use is declining, especially with the millennials and Gen-Z. Young Americans are also less likely to use cash; data from the Federal Reserve reveals that 35 to 44-year-olds only pay for 13% of their purchases in cash.
According to McKinsey, the decline in credit card use has partly been attributed to the rise of buy now pay later (BNPL), which has been adopted by 37% of Gen-Z. As interest rates and prices rise, consumer financing at the point of sale rises. In the first quarter of 2023, ChargeAfter saw a 55% increase in point-of-sale (POS) financing applications.
This article explores how consumers are shifting their payment habits and what this means for merchants.
Since the early 2000s, there has been a global shift towards a cashless society, especially with the rise of mobile and crypto wallets. The US lags behind countries like the UK, Norway, China, and Canada in digital adoption. According to data from the Federal Reserve, 20% of transactions in the US are still made in cash. It’s worth noting that the average cash transaction is $22 compared to $112 for credit cards, indicating that it is primarily used for small transactions. In 2022, Pew Research reported that 41% of Americans said they make no purchases with cash in a typical week, compared to 24% in 2015.
Research by GlobalData in 2022 indicates 47% of Americans under 35 do not possess a credit card, compared to 39% in 2016. Overall, credit cards remain popular and accounted for 40% of US purchases in 2021, according to Statistica. In July 2023, the Federal Reserve published that 20% of US loans were rejected, suggesting that higher interest rates make it more difficult for Americans to borrow. The Fed raised interest rates seven times in 2022, and the average credit card interest rate in the US is almost 25%. For shoppers with a low credit score, the average APR is around 27%, meaning shoppers are looking for an alternative.
As the technology to underwrite at the point of sale has been developed, multiple POS financing products have become available, mainly driven by fintech companies. These lenders offer diverse loans, including 0% APR, long and short-term instalments, revolving credit, B2B financing, lease-to-own, and BNPL. According to a survey by LendingTree, POS financing services rose by 12% in the United States between 2022 and 2023 and are popular across all age groups. This form of consumer financing allows customers to obtain instant financing at their moment of need, often providing better terms and greater flexibility than a credit card. Data from ChargeAfter shows that the amount shoppers spent using financing increased by 53% in the first quarter of 2023 compared to 2022 in the US.
The Future of Consumer Financing
The trend towards point-of-sale financing will continue as younger generations reject credit cards and consumers face high-interest rates. As financial technology continues to evolve, the potential of consumer financing is fast growing, suggesting an increasingly integrated and versatile financial landscape.
While cash is straightforward and carries no debt, it lacks the security and reward benefits of credit cards and is quickly replaced with tech-centered payment solutions. Credit cards offer flexibility but can lead to high-interest debt and are unpopular with young people. Consumer finance delivered through a POS financing platform that supports multiple lenders and is embedded into omnichannel customer journeys is fast being adopted by retailers to give their customers financing choices anywhere they shop.