How Much Cash Do You Carry? Do People Still Use Cash?

how much cash do you carryI’ll be the first to admit that this post was inspired by the results of a recent poll I found in my favorite personal finance magazine, Money Magazine. 

I’m sure you’ve seen the credit card commercials where everyone swipes their cards for payment and then one guy pulls out cash and the whole entire business grinds to a halt.

I don’t know if it is just me, my generation or everyone in general, but cash seems to become less and less popular every single year.

I personally use my credit card whenever I can to earn cash back or rewards but I do normally still carry a little bit of cash on me. Why?

Reasons To Still Carry Cash

There are still some businesses that refuse to catch up with the times and will not accept credit cards.

Others will put a minimum spending amount for a credit card transaction. These realities almost requires us to still carry cash around.

Why do some merchants not accept credit cards? Credit cards charge businesses fees in order to accept them. The consumer probably ends up paying for the fees through increased prices, but very few consumers realize this.

There are other situations where cash can come in handy. Chances are that if you’re conducting a private transaction such as at a flea market, farmer’s market or with someone on craigslist, the person will probably only want to be paid in cash.

These vendors probably wouldn’t have the capability to be paid by credit card unless they sign up for a service like Square. Finally, these vendors definitely wouldn’t want to accept checks because who knows if your check will clear or not. 

A Few Reasons Cash Hasn’t Died Yet

Cash is still a very popular form of payment for tipping both in restaurants and in other situations. I know when we go on cruises we prepay most of our gratuities, but if someone goes above and beyond while serving us they might find some extra cash headed their way.

Cash allows us to tip people that we wouldn’t pay for any other reason, such as porters who take your bags or that awesome saxophone players on the street corner. Good luck getting them to run your credit card for a tip.

There are some less than savory reasons why cash is still pretty popular these days too. Cash is, for the most part, untraceable.

By being untraceable, some business will take advantage and not report their cash earnings on their tax returns to cheat and save some money. It isn’t right and I suggest you pay every penny in taxes you owe, but it does happen.

That’s not all, there are many illegal activities that rely on cash for the fact that it is untraceable. I won’t name anything in particular, but I’m sure you’ve thought of at least three types of activities that will only accept cash for these reasons.

Finally, another reason to use cash and the fact that it is untraceable is bribes. Bribing is illegal in most places, but in some countries entire processes almost require bribes in order to get anything done.

How Much Cash Do You Carry?

So now that I’ve gone over some of the various uses of cash, I want to know one simple thing. How much cash do you carry on a regular basis?

In case you were wondering what the results of the poll were in Money Magazine, here is a brief summary.

  • 42% of people surveyed carry only $1 to $40 of cash.
  • 30% of people surveyed carry $41 to $99 of cash.
  • 17% of people surveyed carry $100 to $199 of cash.
  • 11% of people surveyed carry $200 or more of cash.

Personally, I normally fall into the $1 to $40 range but occasionally will bump up into the $41 to $99 of cash if someone pays me for something in cash. I can only think of a handful of times I’ve ever had $200 or more of cash.

Let me know how much cash you normally carry in the comments below!

Photo by: 401(k) 2013 Text added by: Lance Cothern

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. More often than not, we have $0 in cash on us. Mr PoP knows he’s awful about spending cash and not having a clue where it went and I’m only marginally better, so if we have cash we deposit it in the bank. Then if we’re going somewhere we’ll need cash, we stop at the ATM and take out what we need.

    • Haha so you’re opposite of the studies that say you spend more on CC’s. Sounds a lot like myself.

    • I absolutely do NOT trust banks nor plastic cards. I always think when I swipe them they will suddenly get rejected or have no money left because anyplace and anyone can steal anytime. The govt can just go in and take or freeze assets, even by mistake. I carry almost all cash all the time and it goes on my person, bra, zip pocket. I only use debit if paying bills. I even buy groceries in cash, and just carry hundreds. I have never had it stolen nor lost it. I have however been robbed electronicly. I will always feel this way. If something is direct deposited, I immediately remove every cent. I do not trust anyone. Least of all machines. Cash is tangible and I KNOW its there.

  2. We still carry a bit of cash for lunches, mad money, emergency money and such, the total is probably less than $50 at the beginning of the month.

  3. I rarely carry cash. In fact, when I would go out and need cash, my friends and I would always stop at the ATM to get it. It got to the point where we didn’t have to remind each other we needed cash, because all of us always did.

  4. I rarely have any cash, other than change. We both use credit cards for rewards so using cash just isn’t part of the plan!

    Sometimes I get cash out to shop at garage sales…that’s about it!

  5. I rarely ever carry cash unless we are going on vacation or I know we are going someplace that is a cash only establishment.

  6. I don’t carry much cash, maybe $100 on average. I’ll have a little more than that before I buy groceries and gas for the week. Less than that after.

  7. With small businesses, I can’t justify putting anything under $10 on a credit card. It’s not fair to that business to hit them with the c/c transaction fees for such a small amount. But for the Walgreens, I’ll put anything on my credit card as I know they can take the fees. I generally like to keep about $40 in my wallet. If I ever for any reason have more than $100 bucks in cash, I will never keep it all on me. I’m so paranoid of getting pick-pocketed that I will just keep some at home and add it back after I spend what’s in my wallet.

  8. I may be the only one, but I carry no cash! Normally, I do not go shopping or out to lunch. I just do not need cash so I don’t carry it.

  9. I carry $20….at the most. I’ve been no cash for a year now, and loving it. I have to keep tabs on our spending, but does that for us now 🙂

  10. I wish I kept more cash on me, I think it curbs my spending psychologically, but I don’t keep much. Usually less than $5. The flip side is that it makes budget tracking much easier in YNAB!

  11. There was no $0 option? That’s how much I’ve had in my wallet for weeks now! I often have between $5 and 20 though, pretty much exclusively for use at the farmer’s market. We do take out some more immediately before using it if we know we need to make a craigslist purchase or something.

  12. I fall into the 1-40 range most of the time as well unless I know I’m going somewhere where having more cash on hand is necessary. Someone on FB posted an article trying to help find a woman who stole another woman’s purse with 1k in cash in there. She was elderly. My first thought was who would carry that much cash?!? But my grandma used to do the same thing. They just aren’t used to using plastic as much as we are.

  13. I carry a lot of cash. It’s what I usually use to pay for groceries rent etc.!

  14. I rarely, if ever, carry cash unless I get it somehow. I don’t go to the ATM and take it out or anything. I’m just not a huge fan of it. I prefer card.

  15. Great post. I’m carrying exactly $8.00 in my wallet right now. That’s about normal.

    I used to do the Dave Ramsey style cash envelope system for a year or two. Obviously we had a lot more then. That was a good way to start new habits, but it did not seem necessary for me and my wife long run. Plastic is convenient and easier to track.

  16. Hubby and I each carry $100-200 cash most of the time. We always pay for restaurants and tips with cash and keep a running total of what we’ve spent so we don’t go over our budget allotment for that. That is really about the only thing we use cash for but I have to say we’ve discussed paying for more things with cash, and at the same time discussed paying for groceries with credit card to get the reward points.

  17. Adam Dieterich says:

    Unless I’m traveling the answer is always $0.

    I agree that cash tends to evaporate if we keep it around. It will go to something that I don’t remember which means it probably wasn’t important or particularly enjoyable.

    I’m actually the opposite of most people. I think I spend less with credit cards than I would with cash. When I get ready to scan my credit card I stop and think to myself is this a charge that I want to see and pay for on my monthly statement 30-45 days from now.

  18. Matt Alestock says:

    Not a day goes by that I’m not carrying AT LEAST $5,000. For me, I love the sense of freedom and security that it provides. I can buy what I want, when I want, and by paying cash I can generally get it for much less. (People tend to be highly motivated to part with things I want when green is being waved under their nose.). If I spend it, I replenish it. I also carry in a separate pocket around $40-$50 in petty cash. I don’t like breaking the $100s unless it’s absolutely necessary.

    • Wow I’d say you definitely carry more than most do! Glad it gives you a feeling of freedom and security, but I’d be worried about losing my wallet or getting robbed.

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