Most Americans now fear touching cash, survey says

August 12, 2020, 12:00 AM UTC

Dirty Money is a popular Netflix documentary. But the term could also be used to describe how many Americans feel about handling cash these days.

According to a new survey, 54% of Americans are concerned about touching coins or bills due to COVID, while 60% plan to use so-called touchless payments in the future.

The findings are based on an online survey of 600 people conducted by Rapyd, a global payments company backed by digital payment giant Stripe. The survey also found that 45% of Americans want to see pennies phased out, while 5% want all coins to be eliminated.

In an interview with Fortune, Rapyd CEO Arik Shtilman said COVID has rapidly accelerated an existing trend of Americans ditching cash for other forms of payment.

Shtilman added, though, that it will take years before the U.S. resembles Asia, where phone-based digital wallets are ubiquitous. He said this is partly due to the large number of Americans who like to pay with cash, as well as the slow process of replacing existing point-of-sale systems—which rely on consumers using physical cards and signing receipts—with machines that can read digital wallets like Apple Pay.

The move away from cash could also be accelerated by governments around the world using COVID as a pretext to reduce the amount of coins and bills in circulation, Shtilman says.

In the United States, the pandemic has already produced a coin shortage in part due to decreased activity at laundromats, transit facilities and other places where Americans spend coins.

Meanwhile, the U.S. mint scaled back its coin operations in the spring over health concerns, but returned to full production in June. According to a recent Fortune report, the mint plans to produce 17.8 coins by the end of the year—7.4 billion more than last year—suggesting the federal government does not intend to use the pandemic to accelerate a move away from cash. The U.S. Mint did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its latest plans.

And while many younger Americans rarely touch cash, a fully cashless society is still far off, at least in part by design. As Fortune reported in June, several U.S. cities have introduced law requiring merchants to accept cash—in part because millions of Americans lack access to payment cards and other tools of the banking system.

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