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Payments Increasingly Going Digital

Splitting a utility bill with a roommate, paying rent to your landlord, those tickets to Coachella. If you paid, or received, money using Venmo or another digital payment platform, rather than cash, you’re not alone. More and more people are using these digital apps and fewer are using ATMs.

New research from Earnest shows use of ATMs declining and use of the newest digital payment platforms that mimic cash — where it’s seamless to give and receive — increasing.

According to our data, overall ATM use declined by 4 percent and cash-like digital payment platform Venmo increased by 4 percent, between January 2014 and October 2015.

Stylized line chart showing that by number of dollars moved, ATM usage declined between early 2014 and late 2015, and that Venmo usage increased.

While ATMs are still the mainstay — 87 percent of people in our data used ATMs to access their money — digital payment platforms were close behind. Seventy-seven percent of people used at least one digital payment platform during the same period.1

The findings are based on anonymized transaction data from more than 20,000 Earnest loan applicants and looked at credits and debits between a bank account and ATM or digital payment platform.

One note about the data: In the same way that this data cannot capture cash transactions between two people, this data does not include peer-to-peer transactions that occur between two users within a digital payment platform.

Other highlights from the data showed the youngest millennials prefer Venmo, while those in older groups skew toward other payment platforms.


While Earnest’s data provides just one snapshot of how people are conducting financial transactions, it underscores the changing ways in which we pay for goods and services. As other studies have noted, millennials are less likely to use credit cards, and more likely to say they would give up cash altogether.

Even as digital payment platforms are creeping up on cash as a favored way to pay, cash will always have something that apps do not: privacy.

With Venmo, for example, transactions are made social by default.The app features a live news feed of users’ transactions (often annotated with emoji), which provides a fascinating glimpse into the reasons we swap money with peers (tickets, food, gas, and drinks to name a few). Venmo users can also opt to make transactions private.

Cash on the other hand? Traceless to a fault.

1The digital payment platforms included in the research are Paypal, Venmo, Square, Dwolla, Google Wallet, and Skrill. There was not significant data available about other digital payment platforms such as Apple Pay or Chase QuickPay.

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Earnest is a technology company using software automation, smart design, and exceptional service to restore trust in the lending industry and help clients take control of their finances.