Poll: 94 million Americans store their card information online


Oldest shoppers most likely to let retailers keep their data on file, raising security and impulse shopping concerns

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Concerns about identify theft and credit card fraud aren’t stopping most Americans from storing their credit and debit card information online, a new CreditCards.com report reveals.

Two out of every three online shoppers have their card information stored on at least one website or mobile app for future purchases, the poll found. And about 10 percent say they always save their card information online, no matter where they’re shopping. If you extrapolate that out across the population, that means 94 million Americans let retailers store their credit or debit card data, and 14 million always do so.

The national telephone survey of 1,002 adults offers a rare look at the data-saving behavior of online shoppers, many of whom seem undeterred by rising reports of data breaches. See survey methodology.

Silent Generation stores payment data most often

The poll found some striking generational and regional differences.

  • The Silent Generation: People born between 1925 and 1945 are twice as likely as other age groups to store their data, with about 1 in 5 (21 percent) of those age 72 or older reporting they always save their payment information.
  • Baby boomers and Generation Xers: These generational groups are more guarded, with only 6 to 7 percent saying they always store their information online, and more than 40 percent saying they never do.
  • Southerners keep card data offline: Shoppers who live in the South are also loath to save their card information online, according to the poll. About 68 percent say they rarely or never do it, compared to 55 percent of those in other parts of the country. Midwesterners are most comfortable with saving their card information, the survey found.

“For online consumers, there’s a trade-off: The more you store your payment info in a variety of places, the greater your odds of being a victim of fraud,” says Alex Johnson, senior marketing manager at FICO. “But saving your information offers a definite advantage in terms of convenience, because you don’t have to have your card on hand to make a purchase.”

Younger consumers shop online more

Online shopping, in general, is still most popular among younger generations and higher earners, according to the poll. Only about one in four members of the Silent Generation shops online, compared to three of every four millennials.

But when those seniors do go online, they make it easy on themselves, with more than half of them (55 percent) opting to keep their payment information on file at least some of the time.

Jean Twenge, a psychologist who studies generational differences, says the Silent Generation tends to be more trusting than younger age groups, whether in relationships or in the financial realm. In one long-standing survey of Americans, for example, 40 percent of respondents in their 70s and 80s said they could trust other people, compared to only 20 percent of those in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

But convenience is likely another major factor, Twenge says. “It’s going to be harder for them to remember their card numbers,” she says. “And they don’t want to have to get up and get their wallet, which can be an undertaking when you’re a senior.”

Pat Brennan, 74, of Sarasota, Florida, loves how easy it is to shop on Amazon now that the site has her credit card information; she has even started using Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistant, to make purchases. When she shops on other sites, however, she says she considers the size of a retailer and how often she plans to shop there when deciding whether to trust it with her card data.

“Amazon is so big that I know they have a lot of built-in security,” she says. “But if I’m shopping from somewhere smaller, and I’m only going to buy from there every few years, I’m not going to let them save my credit card. It’s just not worth the risk.”

Pros and cons of storing card info

Security experts say your safest bet to prevent fraud is to type in your card information for every single transaction, but they acknowledge that may not be realistic.

“In general, as long as you are shopping on a reputable site that you know you’re going to come back to, there’s something to be said for convenience,” says cybersecurity expert John Sileo.

If you do choose to store your card information, make sure you use a credit card – not a debit card – because you’ll be more protected in case of a problem, Sileo says. Then monitor your statements closely for any questionable or unauthorized transactions.

Finally, be aware that if you save your card information, anyone who has access to your computer (including your teenage kids!) will be able to make a purchase with just a click or two. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, the extra step of typing in your card number may give you time to consider whether the purchase is necessary.

Other survey findings

In addition to asking respondents about how often they store payment information, the poll asked general questions about online shopping. Here are some other interesting findings:

  • The younger the shopper, the more likely they were to have shopped online. Seventy-six percent of millennials, 65 percent of Generation X, 55 percent of baby boomers and 26 percent of the Silent Generation have used a website or a mobile app to buy something.
  • The more you earn, the more likely you are to turn to the internet to do your shopping. Families earning $75,000 or more per year are almost twice as likely to shop online as those making less than $30,000. College grads also shop online at double the rates of those without a college degree.
  • Among racial groups, Hispanics are the least likely to shop online, with a significant majority (57 percent) saying they have never used the internet or a mobile app to buy anything. Thirty-three percent of whites and 48 percent of blacks said the same.
  • People with kids are more likely to shop online than those without. About 70 percent of parents use the internet for shopping, compared to 58 percent of childless people.
  • What are people buying online? When it comes to the specific items people always or mostly buy online, the biggest segment is electronics (33 percent), followed by clothing, shoes and accessories (22 percent), furniture (6 percent) and then groceries (4 percent).
  • About 7 percent of people ages 50-64 say they always buy clothing, shoes or accessories online, double the rate of any other age group.
  • Online grocery shopping is more popular with high earners. While the number of people buying all their groceries online is minuscule (4 percent), the folks who make $75,000 or more are twice as likely compared to those who make under $50,000 and four times more likely than those who make under $30,000.

Survey methodology

The survey was conducted on behalf of CreditCards.com by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. PSRAI obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,002 adults living in the continental United States. Interviews were conducted by landline (502) and cellphone (500, including 323 without a landline phone) in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from May 18-21, 2017. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

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