How do you pay for this?
Zhang Peng—LightRocket via Getty Images
By Ethan Wolff-Mann
March 23, 2016

The register rings you up for a coffee and bagel. How do you pay: cash or plastic?

The answer, according to a new survey from, largely depends on your age.

A majority of those surveyed (58%) says they’ll use cash for purchases of $5 and under, while cards are preferred by 38%. Debit cards are favored over credit, 27% to 11%. Not surprisingly, a higher proportion of millennials (64%) prefers using a card for such small purchases. They grew up in an era that saw an increased usage of plastic, and consider a card far more convenient. In fact, Gen Y is the only age group that prefers plastic over cash.

By contrast, only 19% of the population over 65 swipes for small purchases, and even the next cohort down—the 50-64-year-olds—overwhelmingly favors cash over cards, 77% to 28%.

What’s especially interesting is how cash usage is decreasing across the board overall. In 2014, 65% of those surveyed said cash was their preferred payment method for purchases of $5 or less, compared to 58% more recently.

Read next: The Millennial Money Habit That Defies Logic

At the same time, credit card usage hasn’t increased, despite the rewards and buyer protections it offers. The main area of plastic expansion is in debit cards, which as notes, is something that more young people have as they begin to learn about personal finance–and they focus on avoiding getting into debt.

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