Mobile payment statistics

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For years we've been hearing about the promise of mobile payments and how digital wallets will one day make our pocketbooks obsolete. That day is still far off, but consumers are increasingly turning to their smartphones to shop and pay for things online or in person.

Some experts see huge potential, given that 87 percent of American adults said they owned or had regular access to a mobile phone, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve conducted in December 2014 and released in March 2015, and 71 percent of those were Internet-enabled smartphones.1

Mobile payments rising -- especially for purchases

The number of Americans using mobile payments is thought to be increasing daily. In an online survey conducted by Walker Sands Communications in November and December 2014, and released in 2015, 40 percent of consumers polled said they had used a mobile payment application in the past year, up from 8 percent a year earlier.2

What exactly are mobile payments, though? The term encompasses different activities and technologies, some of them more popular than others. You may use your phone to pay a bill, make a charitable donation, pay an individual, buy something online or make an in-store purchase. To pay, you may access a website on your mobile device, send a text message or use an app. Among apps there are retailer-specific apps and more general wallet apps such as Google Wallet and Apple Pay that are designed to be used at a number of different merchants.  

The Fed's 2015 survey found that 28 percent of smartphone users and 22 percent of all mobile phone users had made some kind of mobile payment during the year, with the most common type of payment being online bill pay followed by online or in-app purchases.1

Types of payments among smartphone mobile payment users
Online bill pay
Online or in-app purchase
In-store purchase
Made person-to-person payment
Received person-to-person payment
Paid for taxi, parking or public transport using app
Payment by text message (including donations)
Source: Federal Reserve Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2015 report

Aggregate sales data reinforce the idea that mobile e-commerce is a growing market. Revenues from mobile e-commerce rose from $2.2 billion in 2010 to $42.8 billion in 2013, according to Custora, a marketing analytics firm for retailers. That growth continued into 2014, with $12.2 billion in mobile shopping sales in the first quarter alone.3

The National Retail Federation says that in all of 2014, 12 percent of all online sales were made using a smartphone, up from 8 percent the year before. Tablets were used to make 16 percent of online sales in 2014, up from 13 percent the year before.4


Credit-card-statistics-road-mapFUN FACT:
9.8 percent of respondents to a 2014 online survey made purchases in the bathroom using tablet computers. Men outpaced women in bathroom-based buying, with 12.3 percent of men saying they pause to purchase while on the throne, compared to 8 percent of women.5


Mobile point-of-sales purchases rising -- slowly

In-store mobile purchasing has been much slower to take off than online m-commerce. But there are signs of mobile life at the point of sale. An August 2014 survey by Accenture found that 41 percent of U.S. consumers had used their phone to pay at a merchant location. That's up from 17 percent in 2012.6

Technology companies, retailers, banks and phone companies have all been creating solutions for mobile point-of-sale payments, and it's not clear yet which approach will eventually win with consumers -- if any. Among smartphone owners who made a mobile payment at a merchant in 2014, 31 percent did so by scanning a bar code or QR code; 22 percent used a mobile app that doesn't require scanning a code or tapping their device; and 14 percent tapped or waved their mobile phone at the register using a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip, according to the Fed.1 

In its survey, Walker Sands found that, among respondents who had used mobile payments, nearly half had used Google Wallet, an app that requires a phone with an NFC chip to be used at an NFC-compatible in-store reader. Only 4 percent of the respondents had tried competing wallet Apple Pay, which was introduced to great fanfare in October 2014, just before the survey began. But 18 percent said Apple Pay's launch made them more likely to use their phone to buy something in the future. Among iPhone users, that figure was 36 percent, but even 16 percent of Windows phone users and 8 percent of Android users said Apple Pay's introduction made them more likely to pay with their phones.2

Which of the following mobile payment applications have you used in the past years?
Google Wallet
Banking payment application
1 6%
Retailer's mobile payment application
Apple Pay
Samsung Wallet
Source: Walker Sands' 2015 Future of Retail Study

Starbucks, whose app allows customers to pay and earn rewards by scanning a bar code, has emerged as one of the greatest retailer success stories so far for mobile payments. According to a company announcement in the first quarter of 2015, 13 million customers use Starbucks' mobile payment app and the number of mobile transactions in its stores is nearly 7 million each week.7 

No matter which technology is used for executing a mobile payment, traditional payment instruments are still the favored way of funding mobile wallets or apps. Debit cards are the most popular, according to the Fed's 2015 survey, closely followed by credit cards.1 

How do you load funds onto your phone for mobile payments?
Debit cards
Credit card
Nonfinancial institution such as PayPal
Prepaid card
Charge applied to phone bill
Source: Federal Reserve Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2015 report
Mobile payment user demographics

Younger people are the most likely to use some sort of mobile payment. Among 18-29 year-olds, 34 percent used mobile payments during 2014, compared to only 7 percent of those age 60 or older. 1

Use of mobile payments by mobile phone owners in the past 12 months by age
Age group 2011 2012 2013 2014
28% 34%
30-44 16% 18% 21% 31%
8% 9% 13% 16%
5% 8% 7% 7%
12% 15% 17% 22%
Source: Federal Reserve Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2015 report

Likewise, the 2014 Accenture study found that 52 percent of millennials use their smartphone as a payment device, compared to only 16 percent of those 55 years or older.6

Use of mobile payments: Millennials vs. older consumers
Behavior Millennials 55+
Use a smartphone
Use smartphone to make payments 52% 16%
Make a payment with their phone at least monthly
Source: Accenture 2014 North America Consumer Payments Survey

Credit-card-statistics-road-mapFUN FACT:
29 percent of American and Canadian consumers and 37 percent of millennials are willing to have their location tracked by merchants they trust.6


Members of the largest racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. are also disproportionately likely to use mobile payments.1

Use of mobile payments by mobile phone owners in the past 12 months by race/ethnicity
Race/ethnicity 2011 2012 2013 2014
White, non-Hispanic
10% 13% 12% 17%
Black, non-Hispanic 14% 18% 34% 34%
Other, non-Hispanic
15% 17% 16% 24%
20% 18% 26% 32%
2+ races, non-Hispanic
9% 13% 31% 23%
12% 15% 17% 22%
Source: Federal Reserve Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2015 report

There is a gender divide among mobile payment users, too. Men are more likely than women to make purchases using mobile devices. In 2013, 22.2 percent of men made purchases on a smartphone, compared with 18.2 percent of women. Similarly, 20.4 percent of men made purchases using a tablet, compared with 16.9 percent of women.9

International use of mobile payments

Despite the growing use of mobile payments, the United States still lags behind some other countries in adopting mobile payments, especially in stores.10

Percentage of shoppers who say they have made a mobile payment (previous 6 months)
  Japan United States South Korea China
Source: GfK FutureBuy 2014

Percentage of mobile payments made in store
  Global average United States Poland Australia Japan  
Source: GfK FutureBuy 2014

Yet U.S. consumers are using their phones for other shopping-related activities, even if they're not using them to pay.

  • 47 percent of smartphone owners have used their phone to comparison shop in-store and 33 percent have scanned a product's bar code to find the lowest price.
  • 69 percent of consumers who used their phones to comparison shop in a store have purchased the item someplace else as a result of what they found.
  • 63 percent of mobile banking users with smartphones have checked their bank account or available credit before making a big purchase, with 53 percent of them deciding not to complete the transaction as a result.1
Changing attitudes about mobile payments

Awareness of mobile payments in the United States increased from 73 percent in 2012 to 84 percent in 2014, while the use of smartphones as a mobile payments device rose by 24 percent.6

But there are still many consumers who do not understand the nuts and bolts of mobile technology. Of the 87 percent of consumers who regularly used a smartphone in 2014, 41 percent of them did not think their phone was equipped with mobile payments technology.6

Many people say they are not interested in using mobile payments, either. A March 2015 survey by found that 43 percent of respondents said they "never would" pay for items by smartphone and another 21 percent said they "hardly ever" would. Eleven percent said they would use their smartphones to make purchases "most of the time" and 6 percent would "always" use their smartphones as a mode of payment. The numbers are similar to those revealed in a September 2014 survey.11 

If you could use your cellphone to pay for things you buy everywhere, how often would you do so?
Most of the time
Only sometimes
Hardly ever
Source: polls fielded Sept. 4-7, 2014, and March 5-8, 2015, by Princeton Survey Research Associates International

Other findings from the survey:

  • 52 percent of respondents 65 years old and older said they would never pay by smartphone, down from 64 percent in 2014.
  • The percentage of nonwhite poll respondents who said they'd pay by phone always or most of the time jumped from 14 percent in 2014 to 24 percent in 2015.
  • Women's enthusiasm for mobile payments waned, with just 11 percent saying they'd pay by phone always or most of the time, down from 16 percent six months earlier.
  • The percentage of millennials saying they'd never or hardly ever use mobile payments jumped from 48 percent to 58 percent.11

Some consumers shun mobile payments because they would prefer to shop online using their desktop computers. Forty-three percent said in 2014 that they couldn't see a clear or large enough image of the product when shopping via a mobile device, while another 31 percent said it was too difficult on a mobile phone to compare products.12

Other consumers didn't see a reason for using mobile payments, thought other methods were easier to use or distrusted security or the technology.1

What are the main reasons you have decided not to use mobile payments?
It's easier to pay with cash or a credit/debit card
I'm concerned about the security of mobile payments
I don't see any benefit from using mobile payments
I don't trust the technology
I don't have the necessary feature on my phone
I don't really understand all the different options
It's difficult or time consuming to set up or use
The places I shop don't accept mobile payments
I don't need to make any payments
Source: Federal Reserve Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2015 report

Security concerns were also echoed in a January 2013 study by market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, which found that 79 percent of consumers would be more likely to make mobile payments if they were guaranteed 100 percent protection against fraud and theft.13

However, young people are less concerned about the security of mobile payments, with 48 percent of Generation Z (born after 1989) and 33 percent of Generation Y (born between 1980 and 1989) feeling confident that their mobile payments are 100 percent secure. That compares to only 19 percent of Gen X and baby boomers feeling such confidence.10

Unfortunately, such concerns aren't unfounded. More than one-fifth of all fraudulent transactions took place via the mobile channel in 2014.14

Even putting security concerns aside, many Americans just don't want to pay with their phones. In the Fed's 2015 survey, mobile payment holdouts were asked which mobile payment activities they'd be interested in using if all their technology concerns were addressed. Sixty-five percent said they still would not be interested in using mobile payments. Among the others, coupons were of the highest interest.1

Which mobile activity would interest you most if all of your technology concerns were answered?
Receiving/using coupons
Point-of-sale purchases
Online bill pay
Online or in-app purchase
Virtual wallet
Parking, taxi or public transit app
Pay another person in the U.S.
Pay another person outside the U.S.
Source: Federal Reserve Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2015 report

Satisfying current users

Among current mobile payment users, a number of features could be added to entice them to use mobile payments more.6

What would entice you to use mobile payments more?
Percentage of respondents who said they would definitely increase or may increase usage
Discount pricing or coupons based on mobile payment usage
Rewards points
Ability to skip checkout by scanning and purchasing product immediately
Ability to store receipts securely and track spending habits
Separate checkout line or other special treatment
Ability to scan product for information
Ability to pay for public transport and earn rewards toward free use
Notifications of upcoming events at store
Source: Accenture 2014 North America Consumer Payments Survey

Some mobile payments converts could even be persuaded to pay more for certain services. Thirty-eight percent of American and Canadian mobile payments users said they would pay to be able to scan products with a smartphone and have them placed into an electronic basket with all coupons and loyalty rewards applied. Thirty-four percent said they would be willing to pay to use biometric authentication such as a fingerprint or retina scan to complete a transaction.6

While mobile payments are a long way from the status quo, statistics show that the youngest generations hold the key to widespread future adoption.

  1. Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2015 - report by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  2. Walker Sands' 2015 Future of Retail Study
  3. Mobile E-Commerce Hits All-Time High - Custora blog July 8, 2014
  4. National Retail Federation news release Feb. 6, 2015
  5. The Roles of Gender, Geography and Age in Mobile Commerce -- 2013 survey by SeeWhy
  6. Accenture 2014 North America Consumer Payments Survey
  7. Starbucks Q1 2015 earnings call, as reported by PMTS, Jan. 23, 2015
  8. TSYS 2014 Consumer Payments Study
  9. Online survey by SeeWhy, 2013
  10. GfK FutureBuy 2014
  11. Poll: Public lukewarm about paying by cellphone
  12. 2014 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper
  13. News release from Chadwick Martin Bailey, April 1, 2013
  14. LexisNexis news release on True Cost of Fraud Mobile study, Jan. 26, 2015

See related: Credit card statistics, Credit score statistics, Credit card debt statistics,

Published: March 30, 2015

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