Predictions about a cashless and checkless society have been made for many years, but retail payments transactions made with electronic payment instruments still constitute only a small fraction of all payments made in the United States. This is the case despite differences in cost and despite marketing and educational campaigns conducted by the Federal Reserve and other institutions. One of the reasons the cost differences have little effect is that the differences in cost among payment instruments typically are not evident to consumers, who are charged the same amount regardless of how they pay.
This article explores the possibility that consumer characteristics may affect the adoption of electronic payment instruments. Using data from the 1998 Survey of Consumer Finances, the author estimates the effect of several demographic characteristics on the probability of using electronic payments. She finds strong effects of demographic characteristics and of location on consumers' choices. She suggests that the importance of location may indicate demand-related network effects, although further analysis of the supply side would be needed to test that hypothesis.