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Cash Usage

The payments landscape is one of countless aspects of our lives that’s been impacted during the pandemic. While lockdowns and quarantines accelerated a rise in online shopping, e-commerce still represented about 14% of retail sales in the U.S. in 2020. This means that 86% were in-person, even as the pandemic intensified.

As one of the most widely used payment methods, cash plays a critical role in society. Millions of Americans use it and legislators want to protect it because it’s reliable, inclusive and private.

At Brink’s, we have a unique look inside the global cash supply chain. Read below for substantiation that cash usage is going strong.


Cash usage is strong.

Brink’s internal data and external data from the Federal Reserve indicate that cash levels in the U.S. exceed pre-pandemic levels.
According to the Federal Reserve, currency in circulation through March 31, 2021, in the U.S. is up 17% year-over-year.
Brink’s metrics show that the value of notes flowing through our U.S. operations in the first quarter of 2021 has increased 4% over 2020's first quarter.

1 St. Louis Federal Reserve (FRED). U.S. currency in circulation through 3/31/21. Weekly Average Currency in Circulation (Billions of Dollars, Weekly, Not Seasonally Adjusted) 

2 Represents year-over-year increase in number of withdrawal transactions on “same terminal” basis

3 Represents year-over-year increase in value of cash processed in U.S.


Small businesses continue to accept cash


86% of retail transactions are in-person, where cash is preferred.1

Despite accelerated e-commerce growth during the pandemic, in-person retail sales, where cash is historically the most popular method of payment, are expected to continue to grow and remain far greater than e-commerce sales.
62% of consumers say they plan to shop in stores this spring at least once a week, according to a 2021 Ad Age-Harris poll.
1 2020 Findings from the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

E-commerce growth rate expected to moderate

This graph shows the growth of e-commerce sales and continued growth of in-person retail. The pandemic has accelerated e-commerce's share of retail sales, growing from 11% to 14% in 2020, suggesting a full year e-commerce sales growth rate of about 32%. But its growth rate is expected to level off and decelerate between now and 2025, when e-commerce is expected to reach about 23% of total retail sales.

Source: U.S Census Bureau (2019-2020), eMarketer (2021-2025)


Cash is inclusive and does not discriminate.

Cash is a vital lifeline to millions of Americans who rely on it to purchase goods and services. In 2019, ~22% of U.S. adults were either unbanked or underbanked and consequently highly reliant on cash, according to the Federal Reserve.
Restricting cash will exclude a significant portion of the population, primarily in lower-income communities and communities of color, say advocates.
All consumers should be able to use cash to purchase goods and services, regardless of their level of sophistication with technology or their ability to open a bank account.
According to a 2021 study commissioned by Square, Inc.:
Local and federal lawmakers are pursuing legislation to ensure cash is accepted at all physical retail locations, and businesses that have tried to ban cash faced backlash due to perceptions or accusations of discrimination/inequity.
The bipartisan Payment Choice Act was presented by Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ, 10th District), in July 2020. It mandates that all brick-and mortar stores accept cash as a valid form of payment and bans businesses from charging a higher price for a cash payment than for other forms of payment.