Students say cash is dead. Is plastic next?

December 06, 2013

USA TODAY

Sixty seven percent of 18- to 25-year-olds carry less than $20 cash in their pocket, according to a survey by public relations firm Walker Sands.

Convenience matters to college students. On campuses it’s expected that everything from laundry facilities to dining hall eateries will accept payment with plastic.

“I almost always prefer credit. Easier and safer than carrying cash,” says Brady Sullivan, sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Erica Koger, a senior at Valparaiso University, agrees, saying that credit is always a better alternative.

But some drawbacks do exist — namely with the type of plastic being used.

The number of college students with credit cards has declined over the years, while the number of those with debit cards has risen.

Maclyn Clouse, professor of finance at the University of Denver, says the movement to debit cards is a good thing given that younger people are likely to spend more responsibly, while not worrying about delinquent debt.

But without credit cards younger people are unable to build their credit history which is necessary for purchasing a home or a car.

As more tech startups invent technologies that make the consumer experience easier, including the advent of Coin, and as digital currency like Bitcoin gains steam, Clouse says there are a lot of questions students should ask before engaging with them.

Coin is a gadget the size of a credit card that digitally stores up to eight card numbers. A circular button allows the user to switch between the cards.

Since students have less experience handling money and tend to trust new entities and gadgets more easily, Clouse explains, it is important they know the security risks and proper protocols.