A staggering 66% of Americans wish they could quit the card and stick to cash only

According to a study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Cushion.ai, 55% admitted that fear keeps them from monitoring their bank account as regularly as they should. (Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash)

Roughly half of Americans aren’t sure how much money is in their bank account at any given moment — and new data suggests it’s because they’re too afraid to find out.

According to a recent study of 2,000 people, 55% admitted that fear keeps them from monitoring their bank account as regularly as they should.

Three in five (59%) often feel an intense anxiety spike just before they do check, and for a similar number of people (60%), living through the COVID-19 pandemic has made that moment feel even worse than it did previously.

Despite this, the average respondent will fight apprehension and check their account balance four times a week, or over 200 times in a year.

The survey, which was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Cushion.ai, also found 31% frequently experience “close calls” where they didn’t know if they’d have the right amount to pay a scheduled expense in time — and 38% of close-callers admit that it often ends in overdraft fees for them.

It’s no surprise, then, that overdraft fees cause stress for 33% of respondents, second only to the number of people who feel similarly toward ATM or bank withdrawal fees (38%).

In fact, on average, respondents lose $48.31 a year in ATM fees and are willing to go up to 16 minutes out of their way to avoid those charges.

Forty percent have also flat-out asked for or demanded a discount from a service provider in order to save money, compared to only 27% who’ve called to argue over a charge.

That’s also less than the number of people who’ve unplugged appliances to lower their electricity bills (37%), the data reveals — as well as the number who’ve switched service providers entirely (38%).

“Reducing waste is one of the most effective ways to improve your financial situation,” said Paul Kesserwani, founder and CEO of Cushion. “So if you overpay for your electricity or get hit with an overdraft fee, you can do something about it.

“People tend to shy away from negotiating bills and fees because it can be time-consuming and exhausting. As a result, they leave money on the table. Most things are negotiable. Banks, retailers and billers would rather give you money back than lose you as a customer altogether.”

Meanwhile, Americans are surprisingly confident in their ability to guess their bank account balance off the top of their heads; while only one in five people (19%) bet they’d know the exact balance, 84% think they could get within $200 or closer.

Out of those polled, only 15% use automatic payments, or “autopay,” to handle regular expenses — including twice as many people on semi-monthly income schedules (27%) compared to weekly (14%) and biweekly ones (13%).

In fact, those on weekly income schedules were most likely to feel anxiety before checking their bank account (80%), followed by those on bi-weekly (65%) and semi-monthly (55%) schedules.

In addition, respondents who get paid weekly were also most likely to worry about making the minimum payment on their credit cards (68%), especially compared to the overall average (41%).

“It’s no surprise that employees who get paid weekly are more stressed about their finances right now,” said Kesserwani. “Most of these folks are paid by the hour with no guarantee that they will make enough money each week to cover their bills.

“Income volatility, especially during the age of COVID-19, paired with financial and emotional stress inhibits these workers from advocating for themselves, whether it’s against banks, billers, creditors or otherwise.”

Regardless of how they get paid, three out of five (66%) agreed that if it were possible to do so, they would only use cash for the rest of their lives and never bother with another financial institution again.

ATM/bank withdrawal fees — 38%
Overdraft/insufficient fund fee — 33%
Convenience fees/surcharges — 31%
Hospitality fee/gratuity charge — 30%
Foreign transaction charge — 29%
Credit card interest fees — 26%
Administrative fees — 26%
Wire transfer fees — 23%
Minimum balance fees — 20%
Account closing fees — 19%

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