There’s an unfair stereotype for millennials: selfish, head constantly in their smart phones, with an interest only in social media and bespoke “experiences.” This stereotype led many in the financial services industry to believe the paper check would be nonexistent by 2020, largely due to the millennial preference for mobile banking and payments. But the 2016 Federal Reserve payments study shows a slower decline in check usage than previously anticipated. The number of check payments only decreased from 18.1 billion, to 17.3 billion, when checks had previously been disappearing at a rate of 2 billion per year.
As it turns out, the theory millennials prefer tech to traditional payments like checks and cash couldn’t be more inaccurate, and there is data to prove it.
- 80 percent use cash
- 64 percent carry cash most of the time
- 4x more millennials use cash than the top mobile payment platforms
- 3x more millennials use checks than mobile payment platforms
- 42 percent still use checks
- More millennials use cash more than debit cards
An important finding from the Qualtrics study – only 34% of millennials report owning a video game console, which means more millennials use “old fashioned” checks than play games. A similar research study found that overall millennial checks usage is high: 87 percent of millennials have written a check in the last three months.
Apps Are on the Rise
It’s really technology disrupting the checks industry rather than millennial payment preferences.
- Millennials are 16x more likely to use Apple Pay or Android Pay than boomers …
- Millennials are 6x more likely than boomers or GenX to use Venmo.
- Behind cash, apps are the second most popular way to pay for millennials
But just because millennials are traditionally the first group to adopt new technology, it doesn’t mean app usage is outpacing the standard payments of the past. What about when payment technology becomes inconvenient?
3 Reasons Millennials Still Use Checks
Millennials are still using traditional forms of payments like cash and checks because they remain as convenient and secure as other forms of payment. Checks are not a foreign concept to most millennials and below are three reasons why this demographic is still using the checks to accommodate their lifestyle.
#1 – It’s Easier to Pay Small Businesses
For marketing purposes, the millennial generation is now being split into segments “Older Millennials” (or “Xennials” born 1988 and earlier) and “Young Millennials” born 1990 and later. The differences may seem minute, but the dates have big implications. Older millennials can still remember having a landline and existing in a time before internet and social media. They can remember their parents using checks for most transactions.
As “Older Millennials” age into milestones of adulthood like homeownership and parenthood, the need for checks grows exponentially. From the lawn service, to summer camp, to writing checks for wedding and birthday gifts (somehow sending a “Birthday Venmo” just isn’t as special), checks still float much of the small business ecosystem of day-to-day family life.
#2 – Millennials Are Embracing Non-Traditional Employment
Eighteen percent of the self-employed workforce is millennial. Even if they work as independent contractors, check payments still make up 51 percent of business-to-business payments. According to a recent Freshbooks study, by 2020 47 million people will be self-employed, nearly half of which are predicted to be millennials.
The irony is there: though millennials are seeking non-traditional avenues of employment, the most traditional payment of all (the check) is still quite prevalent in the business economy, meaning millennials will still have a need for business checks for some time.
#3 – It’s the Easiest Option (Aside from Cash)
Why? Because it’s convenient. It feels more secure and personal than shelling out cash. Mobile payments won’t reach a saturation point until more people adopt the technology. If the vendor a millennial needs to pay doesn’t use mobile apps for payments, it’s easier to write a check than figure out and download a technology you can both agree upon. At the end of the day, a check still feels more secure than handing over cash without a paper record or receipt.
Millennial or not, until life becomes a little less complicated, it seems as if checks are here to stay.