Press Releases

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.


The Richmond Fed serves the Fifth Federal Reserve District, which includes the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and most of West Virginia. As part of the nation's central bank, we're one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that work together with the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors to strengthen the economy and our communities. We manage the nation's money supply to keep inflation low and help the economy grow. We also supervise and regulate financial institutions to help safeguard our nation's financial system and protect the integrity and efficiency of our payments system.

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