Millennial mobile payment users display costly card habits

A new study shows smartphones don’t make young adults any better at managing their accounts

Sabrina Karl
Personal Finance Writer
Data whiz and visual storyteller


Millennials who regularly use mobile payment apps are more likely to have bank accounts, a credit card and a retirement account, and are also more likely to hold most forms of debt, from auto loans to student loans to home equity loans.

But while these 18-34-year-old Americans are well familiar with using their smartphones for financial purposes, research shows it doesn’t make them any better at managing their accounts. In fact, they handle their credit card accounts worse than non-users.

The findings were presented recently by Annamaria Lusardi of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at the George Washington University School of Business. GFLEC’s research shows even though millennial mobile payment users have more assets, higher incomes and higher levels of education than non-users, they exhibit more costly card behaviors.

Specifically, mobile payment users were more likely to have paid only the minimum payment on their card at least once in the previous 12 months (45 percent vs. 40 percent), and more often incurred a late fee (26 percent vs. 16 percent for non-users).

See related: Millennials go mobile to manage their money, and to check their credit scores 

Exceeding their credit limit and accessing a card account for cash advances were also much more prevalent among mobile payment users, ranging from 21 to 25 percent vs. just 6 to 7 percent for non-users.

Overall, almost 6 in 10 millennial mobile payment users (58 percent) reported at least one of these expensive card behaviors in the previous year, while only 45 percent of non-users said the same. 

Originally published as a report in April 2018, GFLEC's study was presented Nov. 6 at the 6th Annual Meeting of the International Federation of Financial Museums in Brussels, Belgium. 

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Updated: 02-18-2019