Question of the Day (Update): How Do People Pay For Things?

Jun 07, 2020
Question of the Day, Payment Types, Current Events

This Federal Reserve of San Francisco report is chock-full of graphs about payment preferences gathered from their 2018 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice. With so many graphs to choose from, I thought this one could kick-start a great discussion:

Just to orient you as to what is being measured here, this graph focuses on the number of transactions rather than the actual value. So, while the percentage of cash transactions might seem high, most of these transactions were for small dollar amounts.

Here is the accompanying text from the report:

Most age groups use cash relatively often according to the chart. By share of total payments, cash use is lowest among 25 to 44 year olds, while those under 25 and those aged 45 and over use cash for about 34 percent of transactions. 


Questions for your students:

  • Before you show the chart…
    • Track your money transactions for a week. What percentage of your transactions were cash, check, debit, credit? OR
    • Looking at these six payment types, what do you think your individual bar chart would look like? What payment type do you use the most? How about the least?
  • What are some of the factors you personally think about before deciding how to pay for something?
  • Compare your age group (18-24) with your grandparents (65+). What are the major differences in how the two groups pay for things? What do you think accounts for these differences?
  • What would be examples of electronic payments? Are any of you using your checking account to make online payments?
  • How do you think the usage of mobile payments has changed since 2017? Why?

Want this resource and questions in slide format to use in class? Click here!


Check out this NGPF Activity: Payment Decisions

  • In this Common Core aligned project, students will make and explain their payment decisions in young adult scenarios and write persuasively about payment options.

About the Author

Mason Butts

After graduating from UCLA with a Master's in Education, Mason spent 5 years as a science educator in a South Los Angeles public high school. He is committed to supporting the holistic growth of all students and empowering them to live a life of relational, academic, and financial success. Now settled in the Bay Area, Mason enjoys facilitating professional developments and partnering with educators as they prepare students for a bright financial future. When Mason is not building curriculum or planning a training, he can be found cycling, trying new foods, and exploring the outdoors.