As an entrepreneur it's easy to make assumptions based on buzz. The popular technologists discuss the success and pervasiveness of PayPal in the world, it's becoming apparent that millennials aren't connected to the same world the rest of the world is. For example, while many were brought up on a level of fiscal education, Discover Financial Services found that 44% of millennials have had some trouble with credit card payments, yet 80% considered themselves financially responsible. Similarly, Fidelity's study found that 39% of millennials worry about money and 25% of them don't know who trust with it.
The situation has become even more complex as time goes on. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found them to be using a combination of prepaid and 'mainstream' payment cards. This naturally suggests a movement away from the common perception of how people pay for things, that they want to use technologies that fit in with their lifestyle. The natural assumption of the valley has been
However, a study by e-commerce security company Trustev released this week found that the world of money isn't quite as rosy and startup-backed as a Forbes story on the subject suggested. 91% of millennials have one or more debit cards that they frequently use, and 80% of them have a traditional credit card. However, even though 66% or more used PayPal or Venmo, the typical use of both of those was "infrequent." Worryingly for the technologist payments advocates, Trustev found that 79% of millennials have either zero or one alternative payments apps, and few than 10% have more than two of them. Elder millennials (25-34) also adopt traditional methods, with 85% more likely to use credit cards online than younger (18-24) millennials (67%).
Some have suggested that Bitcoin will most likely be used by millennials and the wealthy, according to an Accenture Study on the subject. The study said that 26% of the millennial group would consider using it in the future. However, Trustev's study respondents said that 63% had never heard of Bitcoin, with only 12% having used it. Strangely, 17% claimed to have heard of a fictional e-currency called "Coyn," the same number who said they had heard of failed payments startup Clinkle.
“We did this research because there is a lot of hype about new apps and payment methods and a lot of assumptions out there. It was very interesting to see how young people “graduate” to traditional methods over time, like credit cards. Of course, alternative payments will grow, but perhaps not as fast as many think," said Rurik Bradbury, Chief Marketing Officer at Trustev.
This has not stopped many retailers such as giant personal computer manufacturer Dell and electronics e-commerce giant Newegg from accepting the popular cryptocurrency. Dell described it as "[giving users] complete control over [their] bitcoin, so [that their] bitcoin account isn't tied to any financial institutions, can't be frozen and carries lower transaction fees than most major credit cards." The truth is that alternative payments is a very wide description of many services, which companies like Amazon have attempted to jump into. Even Apple Pay, which Inc's Jeremy Quittner described as potentially changing the world of payments, has a potential to rock the world of millennial spending. Trustev's study found 14% of millennials had actually used the service, in direct opposition to other reporters such as InformationWeek's Eric Zeman who dubbed it either a "quiet success or murky failure."
It's hard to predict the new generation's spending habits specifically, but startups may be getting ahead of themselves if they think they can dominate the world. The newest player to succeed may be Venmo, potentially thanks to their blanketing of millennial walkways and areas with the disliked "Lucas" advertisements. That, or their potential success as an underground payments-based social network. Time will tell.