Infographic: Plastic finally overtakes cash

Sabrina Karl
Personal Finance Writer
Data whiz and visual storyteller


For the first time, money spent on debit and credit cards around the world totaled more than was paid in cash.

Plastic’s new leader status comes from the findings of market research firm Euromonitor International, which has tracked consumer payment types for decades. Its late 2016 reading shows card purchases registering at $23.2 trillion dollars globally, compared to $22.6 trillion spent in cash.

Ten years ago, the amount spent on cards was only about half the cash expenditures, at $7.6 trillion versus $14.9 trillion, respectively. But while cash has climbed about 52 percent over the past decade, the rise of credit and debit transactions has been much steeper, at about 305 percent.

It’s a trend that’s expected to continue, with Euromonitor projecting card spending to grow 6.6 percent annually from 2016-2021, compared to a forecasted annual gain of just 1.3 percent for cash during the same period.


See related: Fed study: Debit card payments trump credit cards and checks, Simple strategies for increasing your card rewardsMore infographics

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Updated: 02-19-2019