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This Is How Little Cash We Carry These Days

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Alternative forms of currency, most notably credit and debit cards, are thinning out our wallets and pocketbooks, and Americans seem to love it.

Eighty percent of Americans carry less than $50 in cash on a daily basis, and half of Americans carry less than $20 per day, according to a study from Bankrate.com.

The move toward a cashless society seems to agree with people of all age groups, educational attainment and income levels. Where a gap does appear is between men and women -- 86% of women carry less than $50 in cash with them on a daily basis, compared with 70% of men.

What's more, the only reason we carry cash at all is the risk of running into a situation where cash-only purchases apply (such as buying a hot dog at a high school football game or for shopping at yard sales and flea markets), and more major services providers are shunning cash purchases -- try buying a beer on an airplane these days with a $10 bill; many airlines have shifted to "plastic only" in-flight purchase options.

"If we move to a truly cashless society, it won't be much of an adjustment for most Americans," says Greg McBride, Bankrate's chief financial analyst. "The vast majority of Americans carry $50 or less on a daily basis, which seems to indicate that it's more out of necessity than a desire to pay with cash."

There has been plenty of talk in Congress about removing the penny from circulation (it reportedly costs 2.4 cents to make a single penny,) but the idea of removing paper bills entirely is a stretch.

Yet the data show cash evaporating steadily as a payment method of choice.

According to Javelin Research, 27% of all point-of-sale purchases in 2011 were cash only, and that figure is expected to slide to 23% by 2017.

"Cash is no longer king at the point of sale; the total purchase volumes for traditional card products have surpassed those for all other options," Javelin says. "Debit dominates and is used in close to a third of all in-store purchases. Credit follows with a fractionally lower share at POS than is held by debit."

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