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Personal Finance Reports

Consumers Without Credit Cards: Survey Data & Report

Paying with cash or a debit card is becoming increasingly outdated and unfavorable in comparison to paying with a credit card.

With providers competing against each other to win over more consumers, incentives to carry a credit card have never been better. Cash back, purchase protection, and heightened account security are a few of the numerous benefits enjoyed by credit card holders.b

Perhaps most importantly, consumers can steadily build credit with a credit card to help them obtain mortgages, qualify for other loans, or refinance debt at reasonable interest rates. As long as payments are made on time, there are absolutely no downsides to paying via credit card.

So why then do some consumers continue to pay exclusively in cash or debit?

To find out, the LendEDU team decided to conduct a study to explore this question and understand more about this particular group of people. The results can be found below.

Note: Our analysis can be found below the raw survey results followed by the key findings of the study.

Survey Results

​1. What is your annual income?

a. ​48.87 percent answered “$0 – $25,000”

b. 25.64 percent answered “$25,001 – $50,000”

c. 10.86 percent answered “$50,001 – $99,999”

d. 14.63 percent answered “$100,000+​”

2. Approximately how much do you spend using cash or debit card per month?

Response average: $1,109.94 per month

3. What is your credit score?

a. 31.98 percent answered “Unsure”

b. 36.20 percent answered “Less than 600”

c. 10.26 percent answered “601 – 660”

d. 7.54 percent answered “661 – 720”

e. 5.88 percent answered “721 – 780”

f. 8.14 percent answered “780+”

4. Why have you not obtained a credit card?

a. 16.14 percent answered “Afraid of credit card debt/overspending”

b. 16.29 percent answered “Applied but have not yet gotten accepted”

c. 33.94 percent answered “Find them unnecessary”

d. 7.84 percent answered “Not sure which credit card to get”

e. 25.79 percent answered “Other”

5. Who/what most influenced your decision to not obtain a credit card?

a. 16.14 percent answered “Parents”

b. 6.03 percent answered “Friends”

c. 5.43 percent answered “Media”

d. 10.41 percent answered “Financial Crisis of 2008/2009”

e. 61.99 percent answered “Other”

6. Do you plan on applying for a credit card in the future?

a. 25.04 percent answered “Yes”

b. 42.08 percent answered “No”

c. 32.88 percent answered “Unsure”

Analyzing the Results

Our analysis of the survey results can be seen below.

1. What is your annual income?

The most common income bracket among respondents is $25,000 or less in annual income, accounting for 48.87 percent of responses. Among the other 51.13 percent of respondents earning more than $25,001 per year, 14.63 percent bring home more than $100,000 annually. 

2. Approximately how much do you spend using cash or debit card per month?

​Respondents spend an average of $1,109.94 per month with either cash or a debit card, equating to $13,319.28 in spending annually. They could have easily collected $133.19 in cash back each year if they had paid using a card offering 1% cash back instead, and the rewards could have been even greater with cards offering greater rewards rates.

3. What is your credit score?

The majority of respondents either reported credit scores below 600 (36.20 percent) or were unsure of their credit scores (31.98 percent). 31.83 percent of respondents reported credit scores above 601, and 8.14 percent of respondents reported a credit score above 780. 

4. Why have you not obtained a credit card?

We posed this question to understand why these respondents do not have credit cards, and the results are surprising. We expected credit card debt and overspending would be the driving factor pushing respondents away from obtaining credit cards. In contrast, the poll results show credit card debt/overspending was the second least popular answer – receiving 16.14 percent of responses.

The most common response? Credit cards are unnecessary.

33.94 percent of all respondents stated that they had not obtained a credit card because they find them unnecessary despite their numerous benefits and minimal drawbacks.

This was the most popular response among the following demographics: users unsure of their credit score, users with credit scores between 661 and 720, and users with credit scores above 800. Fear of credit card debt and overspending was only the most common response for only users with credit scores between 601 and 660 accounting for 27.94 percent of respondents in that particular demographic.

5. Who/what most influenced your decision to not obtain a credit card?

The largest influence on respondents choice to not obtain a credit card was not captured in the specified options provided, as 61.99 percent selected “Other”. However, out of the specified options provided, “Parents” was the most common influence, accounting for 16.14 percent of all responses.

6. Do you plan on applying for a credit card in the future?

Overall 42.08 percent of users polled stated they do not plan on applying for a credit card in the future and 32.88 percent are unsure whether or not they will apply. The percentage of respondents who do plan on applying for a credit card appears to generally decreases with age. 37.96 percent of those between ages 21 and 24 do plan on applying for a credit card, in contrast to 10.53 percent between ages 55 and 64. 

​Key Findings

Credit card debt is currently a serious issue in the United States with $784 billion owed by consumers as of Q2 2017. Some consumers have compulsive urges or may struggle to pay bills consistently on a monthly basis, so we fully expected credit card debt/overspending to be the primary factor behind respondents’ decisions not to obtain a credit card. The study results show the most popular response was rather that credit cards are unnecessary.

What’s more surprising is that the sentiment is shared not only by older consumers who may have less purpose for building their credit scores, but also by younger consumers as well. Finding credit cards unnecessary was the most popular response (with 33.21 percent) for those between ages 21 and 34, even though building credit is crucial during this particular age. We also see that only 33.93 percent of this group plan on applying for a credit card with certainty.

To take things further, 41.51 percent of those unsure of their credit score also reported they had not obtained a credit card because they find them unnecessary, perhaps suggesting they simply neglect their credit completely. Only 23.11 percent of this demographic plans to apply for a credit card with certainty. 

Regardless of age, income, or credit score, using a credit credit responsibly while making payments on-time does nothing but provide benefits. Young consumers and consumers with low credit can improve their scores, consumers with decent credit can capitalize on favorable reward programs, and mature consumers can protect their accumulated assets through increased separation from bank accounts. Unless, for whatever reason, these consumers actively choose not to participate in these benefits, it’s clear there are still misconceptions surrounding credit cards that need to be disproved. 


​This poll was commissioned by LendEDU and conducted by online polling company Survata. In total, 1,000 American consumers who have never owned a credit card ages 21 and up were polled. Results have been filtered further to exclude responses deemed ineligible by our research team, including consumers who spend less than $100 on a monthly basis, and consumers with annual spending greater than their annual income (determined by the upper limit of the income brackets). After filtering, results from 663 consumers were analyzed. Survata provided age and gender breakdown. The poll was conducted over a seven-day span from November 10, 2017 to November 16, 2017.

See more of LendEDU’s Research

Image Copyright © Chris Potter