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Small businesses that don’t accept credit cards losing 11.8 million customers

Businesses could be turning away thousands of dollars by not offering a card terminal.

When you live in a bigger city, it’s easy to take accessibility for granted: public transportation, 24/7 laundry, corner convenience stores — and paying for nearly everything with a credit card.

It can be unnerving to be at the register of a business that doesn’t offer the ability to pay by plastic. Without cash, you may even walk away from the sale.

Big potential revenue losses

reportOur research team put these words to the test by commissioning a survey of 6,838 American adults. The survey was conducted by global research provider Pureprofile.

Our findings showed that businesses choosing not to invest in a card transaction facility are losing an estimated 11.8 million customers.

This means that a retailer with an annual turnover of $2 million could lose $73,000 in potential annual revenue.

With consumers less likely to carry loose cash, businesses that do not provide card paying facilities are at a growing disadvantage. A 2015 ATM Marketplace report discovered that 5% of Americans don’t carry cash on them.

Our research team found that some three-quarters of people (73%) would leave a store without making a purchase if it didn’t offer a card terminal and they didn’t have cash on hand. Of that 73% — comprising 11.8 million Americans — 36% said they wouldn’t buy anything from that store, and the remaining 37% indicated they would try to shop elsewhere.

The remaining 27% would find an ATM and come back to the store.

Small businesses likely to suffer

Small businesses are especially susceptible to revenue loss if they don’t have a card terminal in their stores.

Fred Schebesta,’s CEO, isn’t surprised that small businesses could lose customers by not having credit or debit facilities. “Small businesses rely so heavily on their customer base that if a customer has a negative experience, they are likely tell their friends and family about it,” he says.

Millennials are most likely to shop elsewhere if a merchant doesn’t provide the flexibility to pay by credit or debit card.

Demographics across the board

Generational. Our studies looked at three major demographic groups to learn how cash only can affect the way they shop:

  • Millennials — ages 18 to 34
  • Generation X — ages 35 to 54
  • Baby boomers — ages 55 to 74
If a merchant does not have card facilities, I will shop somewhere else:
  • Millennials — 45%
  • Generation X — 37%
  • Baby boomers — 33%

If a merchant does not have card facilities, I will leave the store without buying anything:

  • Millennials — 43%
  • Generation X — 35%
  • Baby boomers — 22%


When it comes to men and women, 63% of women would not return to a merchant that doesn’t offer a card terminal, compared with 37% of men. The remaining percentage would make an effort to find an ATM and come back to the store with cash.


How much a person earns plays an important part in a buyer’s mindset. Shoppers with higher income levels are more likely to leave a store that doesn’t have a card terminal without buying anything. Of those earning high incomes of $175,000 to $199,999, 77% would leave the store empty-handed. The remaining percentage would find an ATM and return to the store with cash.

For lower-income earners making up to $9,999 a year, 70% would forgo the purchase, and 30% would withdraw cash from an ATM and return.


By conducting a state-by-state analysis, we found that Oregon had the lowest percentage of people (21%) who indicated they would find an ATM if the merchant did not offer a card terminal. Oklahoma clocked in as having the highest percentage of people (30%) who would withdraw cash and return to the store.

As far as people who would leave the store and not buy anything at all, Kansas and Kentucky both had the highest percentage of people at 47%. Nebraska indicted the lowest percentage of people at 25%.

The world is moving ever further in a digital direction. To remain relevant and prevent future revenue loss, businesses must consider adapting to accept debit and credit cards at the point of sale.

Eleven states were excluded from our state-by-state analysis due to sample sizes of under 40 people.

Compare business credit cards

Small businesses can benefit not only from accepting credit cards, but also using them for expenses. While researching how to begin offering customers the option to pay by card, think about how a credit card could help your business. Consider getting a card that offers rewards in the areas that your business spends the most.

Name Product Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
The American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
The American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card
Up to 2% cash back
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 18.49% to 26.49% variable)
In each calendar year, all eligible purchases on up to $50,000 will earn you 2% cash back, then 1% thereafter. You receive your cash back earned as a statement credit. Terms apply, see Rates & fees
American Express® Business Gold Card
American Express® Business Gold Card
Up to 4x points
19.49% to 28.49% variable
Earn 70,000 points after spending $10,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. Terms apply, see Rates & fees
Revenued Business Card Visa®
Revenued Business Card Visa®
A flexible spending line and business card. Apply with no hard credit check. Requirements: 1 year in business, an existing business bank account with $20,000 average monthly deposits, more than one employee.
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For all media inquiries, please contact:

Richard Laycock, Insights editor and senior content marketing manager


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Written by

Megan Horner

Megan Horner is editorial director at USA TODAY Blueprint and former head of publishing at Finder, where she lead a team focused on publishing personal finance guides and reviews that help readers make informed financial decisions. She's passionate about helping you find the best financial accounts to meet your needs — whether that's earning great rewards or improving your credit score.  Megan's expertise has been featured on Lifehacker,, American Banker and news broadcasts across the country. She has a longstanding background in surfacing the best deals and helping people make decisions, including a start as a writer at a comparison website and editing credit card and credit score content at Credit Karma. She earned a degree in English and editing from Brigham Young University. See full profile

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