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Economic Brief

April 6, 2017

Richmond Fed Economists Analyze Data on Retail Payments

Economists at the Richmond Fed have analyzed a large dataset of cash, check, credit card and debit card transactions to study how a variety of factors influence consumer payment choice for retail purchases.

The Richmond Fed’s latest Economic Brief summarizes this research, which is based on approximately 2 billion transactions at a nationwide retail chain from April 2010 through March 2013. The research examines variation of consumer payment choice across locations and transaction sizes, day-of-week and day-of-month cycles, and longer-term trends. Because reliable data on cash transactions is difficult to obtain, little prior research exists on the use of cash at retail locations. One important finding of the Richmond Fed’s analysis is that even though cash remains an important method of payment at this large retailer, the share of cash transactions continues to decline, largely replaced by debit card use.

The Richmond Fed’s Economic Brief series provides web-exclusive essays on current economic issues and trends. Sign up to receive an email notification when a new essay is posted.

As part of our nation’s central bank, the Richmond Fed is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks working together with the Board of Governors to support a healthy economy and deliver on our mission to foster economic stability and strength. We connect with community and business leaders across the Fifth Federal Reserve District—including the Carolinas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and most of West Virginia—to monitor economic conditions, address issues facing our communities, and share this information with monetary and financial policymakers. We also work with banks to ensure they are operating safely and soundly, supply financial institutions with currency that’s fit for distribution, and provide a safe and efficient way to transfer funds through our nation’s payments system.


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Jim Strader
(804) 697-8956
(804) 332-0207 (mobile)

Laura Fortunato
(804) 697-8196
(804) 698-0927 (mobile)