While surfing the web recently, I ran across a news item at Talking Payments, a website for people and companies (e.g., banks, retailers, card issuers, payment processors, etc.) interested in digital payments. The TP news item mentioned a study by Visa that consumers lose, on average, about $1.00 a day.
To learn more about the Visa study, I next visited the Visa Viewpoints website. The August 2012 survey included 5,641 people in Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the UAE, and the USA. View the infographic about the study (Adobe PDF). The survey tries to document the "cost" to consumers of using cash by adding cash lost plus idle cash. Some findings:
- In the US: $365 lost cash = $285 in lost foreign currencies after trips + $80 in idle cash lying around your home, office and/or car.
- In the US: men ($331) lose more than women ($245). And, younger people ($165) lose more than older people ($135).
- Lost cash varies across countries: Singapore ($656), Australia ($361), Japan ($349), and Russia ($137)
At first read, this seems very interesting. The implication of this study is that consumers who use payment cards (e.g., credit, debit, or prepaid) won't lose cash daily. Losing $1.00 a day in cash equals about $30 a month, or $365 a year.
Do you lose $1.00 a day in cash? I don't. I know this as I check the cash in my pocket at the end of the day -- everyday. When I receive change in the form of bills, I place that change in my wallet immediately. And, I don't consider idle cash as "lost." Maybe you do, but I don't. So, I am wondering exactly what consumers really lose $1.00 a day cash, and if people really lose that much cash daily.
One of the footnotes in the Visa inforgraphic reads:
"2. Foreign currencies given as tips given away in airports and/or misplaced."
What? So, a portion of the supposedly lost foreign currencies includes tips. I don't consider tips as lost money. When traveling, I tip bellhops, taxi drivers, and others who help me with my luggage. That's not lost money, That is paying for services received. Sometimes, I have foreign currencies left over from a trip, but that amount is nowhere near $285. It's under $5.
What's really going on here?
In my view, several things. First, banks really want to capture usage from consumers who don't have traditional bank accounts, or have only one account (e.g., checking or savings). Second, banks really want consumers to migrate to prepaid cards where there are fewer regulations for them; which means fewer or weaker consumer protections and consumer rights. That includes banks working with employers to provide payroll cards and banking services via prepaid cards, and/or health care spending accounts via prepaid cards. To learn more, read the list of prepaid card fees in this blog post, the payroll cards from Bank of America, and the Walmart MoneyCard.To me, the study methodology compiled numbers in a way to inflate the amounts lost to justify these business goals.
Third, even if you lose as much as $1.00 a day in cash, a fair comparison is to consider the fees associated with prepaid cards, and if those those fees are greater than the cash you really lose. CNN Money found that basic prepaid card fees are about an average of $300 per year. That is almost as much as the supposed cash lost by consumers in the US, Australia, and Japan. Those average prepaid fees exceed the cash lost by consumers in several countries.
Both CNN Money and Consumer Reports found a wide variety of fees when it investigated prepaid cards: activation fees, monthly fees, reload fees, cash withdrawal fees, inactivity fees, online payment fees, paper statement fees, customer service phone call fees, and more.
What do you think of the Visa lost cash study?