The Rise of Mobile Payments

Ever since the age of smartphones started in the early 2010’s, phones have advanced in features and are quickly changing people’s lifestyles. Now, smartphone users don’t even need to take their wallets out in order to make a purchase—all they need is a simple scan of the phone screen to pay a bill. According to the latest data from the 2019 National Technology Readiness Survey by Rockbridge Associates, over four in ten (41%) smartphone users currently use a mobile payment service such as ApplePay or AndroidPay. The percentage of the mobile payment users has doubled since 2016 (21%).

Use of mobile payment services correlates strongly with age; younger adults (18-44) are significantly more likely than their older counterparts (45+) to currently use a mobile payment service. The most used mobile payment services are PayPal, Apple Pay, and Visa Checkout. PayPal is the most widely used mobile payment service across age groups, with nearly seven in ten 18-34 year olds (68%) and more than half (55%) of those aged 55 or older using it.

Frequency of use of mobile payment services varies by age but more than a third of total users (36%) use mobile payments at least half the time. Nearly half (44%) of the youngest users (18-34) use mobile payments at least half the time, compared to a third of those aged 35-54 (34%), and one in five of those aged 55 or older (21%). Frequency of use has remained stable since 2016, but this trend may reflect businesses’ willingness to implement mobile payment capabilities more than consumer behavior.

The use of mobile payment services by consumers has grown rapidly in the past few years, and benefits both businesses and consumers. Its efficiency fulfills the needs of both types of users by allowing quicker, more convenient, and more secure purchases. Continuous advancement of mobile payment systems will likely keep boosting use, and frequency of use will also increase if businesses are willing to implement the capability.

About the Study: The National Technology Readiness Survey is conducted by Rockbridge Associates, Inc. and A. Parasuraman, and has tracked technology and e-commerce trends since 1999.  The survey is co-sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Service at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. The most recent wave is based on an online survey wave of 1,083 U.S. adults sampled at random from a consumer research panel in May 2019. A total of 507 were asked about their financial services usage and attitudes. Results are weighted to match census characteristics.


Written by: Bonnie Kim, Research Analyst and Hilary Ross-Rojas, Research Director