Credit card usage is on the rise for in-person purchases under $5, according to a new report from Among credit cardholders, 17% indicate that they most frequently use a credit card for small transactions, up from 11% last year. The increase comes at the expense of debit cards (24%) and cash (55%), both of which saw a three-percentage-point drop in the last 12 months.


Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation overwhelmingly reach for cash in these circumstances (70%), compared to just 43% of those under 53. In general, small cash purchases are down 10 percentage points since 2014.


“If you pay your balance off in full each month, there’s no reason not to use credit cards for these small everyday purchases,” said Senior Industry Analyst Matt Schulz. “They’re convenient, they’re safe and over the course of a year, all of those little cash and debit card payments can add up to a real missed opportunity to collect cash back rewards.”


Credit card holders turn to their credit cards more often for large purchases. Nearly three in five report that they prefer to charge a purchase totaling over $500 (excluding a house or a car), compared to 24% who swipe a debit card, 10% who pay with cash and 8% who write a check.


Credit card usage for large purchases increases with income and education. The majority (62%) of those earning $50,000 or more per year favor credit cards as their go-to for large transactions, compared to 42% of those who make less than that. And, 71% of college grads prefer credit, versus 45% of those without a college degree.