Americans still like their bills and coins.
Consumers are using cash more frequently than any other type of payment, a new report shows, especially when it comes to relatively small purchases for food and personal care supplies.
"This really surprised me, to be honest," said Barbara Bennett, vice president and chief strategist for the Federal Reserve System's Cash Product Office, and one of the paper's authors.
The research found that cash accounts for 40 percent of all the payments the average American makes in a typical month, and comprises up 14 percent of the total value of those transactions.
Debit cards were the next most popular payment type, making up 25 percent of transactions and 18 percent of the value of all payments.
The data is based on a representative sample of about 2,500 Americans, taken in October 2012. Participants were asked to record all their transactions for three days. And the researchers used the data to compile a look at Americans' shopping behavior.
The cash product office, run out of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, discovered that almost everyone used cash to some degree. But cash is more likely to be used by certain types of people, and in certain situations.
For example, consumers seem to like to use cash for small-value transactions, like buying gum or a sandwich. The average value of a cash transaction is $21, about half the average value of a debit card transaction.
Also, Americans with annual incomes under $25,000 were more likely to use cash than those with higher incomes, and also more likely to say that they preferred paying in cash. That's probably because many people with little income have trouble getting access to other types of payment, like bank accounts or credit cards, Bennett said.