The United States still lags in mobile payments

What you need to know

  • Credit card payments are the most popular.
  • Only 9% use Apple Pay.
  • 53% are still using checks.

With the number of smartphones in use across the United States you could be forgiven for thinking that Apple Pay would lead the way in payments. But it doesn't, and neither does any other form of mobile payment. Instead the humble credit card takes top spot, followed by a legacy alternative, cash.

That disappointing news comes via a new report by CNBC which outlines the most popular payment methods in the country. Mobile payments are so unpopular in the United States that they're beaten out by PayPal which has 44% adoption. By comparison, Apple Pay sits at just 9% while Google's products equate for only 6%.

Payment methods in the United States

Compare those numbers with China and the outlook is very different. WeChat Pay is by far the most popular with 84% of users having availed its services. Second is AliPay with 81%. Credit cards? Just 54%.

Places such as China and India are witnessing rapid adoption of smartphone payments. In China, for example, more than 80% of consumers used mobile payments last year, according to management consultancy Bain. In the U.S., major mobile payments apps had adoption rates of less than 10%.

Payment methods in china

One of the reasons for the disparity is likely the infrastructure that's in place. The United States is still catching up to the rest of the world in terms of the availability of terminals capable of accepting contactless transactions. It may also simply be a case that customers in the United States don't see a need to try something new. Credit cards have been working just fine, so why change?

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • This isn't true in my case. I use either my iPhone or Apple Watch to pay with Apple Pay whenever possible. I have noticed that employees in many stores, restaurants and other venues are clueless that their business even accepts Apple Pay. I think some education is called for! I was recently at an area festival buying food from a food truck. They were using "Square" and I actually educated them about being able to pay with an Apple Watch!
  • As use Apple Pay every where I am able. The problem is only half of the locations I go to actually accept that form of payment. Most places in the U.S. lag behind the rest of the world in mobile pay.
  • In the UK I've stopped paying in cash, everything is card (chip and pin!), contactless, or Apple/Google Pay. It's such a relief, no need to constantly think about how much money I need to get out, no dealing with loads of useless change. Even better, I use a bank called Monzo which tells you when and where your transactions were, plus every payment going in or out the bank sends a notification to the phone and is categorised.