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Holiday Shoppers More Likely to Use Cash and Avoid Retailers Who Suffered Breaches

The Target data breach was the story of the 2013 holiday season and several other major retailers have failed to prevent the compromise of their customers’ payment and personally identifiable information since. With this in mind, it should not be too surprising that 45 percent of cardholders responded “definitely not” or “probably not” when asked if they would shop with these retailers this holiday season, while 48 percent said they are now more likely to pay with cash over cards.

The survey lead by contacted nearly 900 adults in the United States who have at least one credit or debit card. While the key findings from the study are that nearly half of cardholders are more likely to use cash and avoid retailers that suffered data breaches, the distribution of this sentiment varies across people of different genders, ages and household incomes.

The primary question asked in the survey was: “If you found out a store where you regularly shop had a data breach, how likely would you be to shop there this holiday season?” Overall 16 percent of respondents said “definitely not,” 29 percent said “probably not,” while 41 percent said they “probably would,” and 11 percent said they “definitely would.” Due to a relatively low sample size the margin of error is plus or minus 3.9 percent, but the findings are meaningful nonetheless.

Just as the fourth quarter is the largest revenue generating quarter for many merchants; card networks, issuers and acquiring banks enjoy heightened revenues from increased card payment volumes during these three months. While expectations are that consumers in the U.S. will spend more online and in-store this holiday season, some of this gain may not be realized by businesses earning revenues from card processing fees as only 1 in 8 U.S. cardholders indicated they are more likely to shop with credit or debit cards this holiday season.

Although whether or not a cardholder will use their credit and debit cards more or less frequently this holiday season depends on several influencing factors. The survey found notable discrepancies in cardholders’ level of cautiousness based on income. 42 percent of cardholders with annual incomes greater than $75,000 indicated they are more likely to pay with cash this year versus 51 percent of cardholders earning less than $30,000 per year. A potential reason for this discrepancy is the fact that people in the higher income group are more likely to have credit cards than people in the lower income group who are more likely to be under-banked and may only have a debit card. While both credit and debit cards offer fraud liability protection, unauthorized use of a debit card can result in funds pulled from a checking account and a several day waiting period until that money is returned, whereas with credit cards the charges may show up on a billing statement but can be corrected before the statement is paid.

Other qualitative characteristics influencing the use of cards this holiday season include age and gender. The survey found that 55 percent of cardholders age 65 and older are “definitely not” or “probably not” shopping at a store that suffered a data breach compared to 41 percent of cardholders in the 30 to 49 year old age range. In terms of gender, women are 8 percent more likely than men to shop at a store that has had a data breach this holiday season.

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