Fletcher in the News

Benjamin Mazzotta Discusses Cashless vs. Cardless Smackdown Results

Benjamin Mazzotta, Postdoctoral Fellow at The Fletcher School, Tufts University

Millennial Smackdown: Can They Live Paying Only Cash Or Credit?

“Cash or credit?” is a phrase uttered by thousands every day. And most individuals happily interchange between the two choices. Plus, every day it seems there’s yet another announcement for a new way to pay: Starbucks and Square; Google Wallet; the Merchant Customer Exchange. Even MasterCard is no longer a “toll collector,” “merely a financial services company” or “an extension of the bank,” says MasterCard’s Jennifer Stalzer, but “a company that uses technology to help consumers have better control of their finances.”

As the concept of the financial transaction undergoes a radical transformation, MasterCard and [The Fletcher School at] Tufts University decided to conduct similar experiments with their summer interns and students, respectively. These Millennial-aged participants were separated into two groups — one team could only use cash, while another team could only use plastic — and documented their experiences using social media.

“People have spending habits that are deeply ingrained, but as we become more mobile and online, are Millennials the next generation that will think it’s normal to keep a wallet? Will they say, ‘I can’t believe we used to carry around metal cards with chips?’” says The Fletcher School at Tufts University’s Ben Mazzotta, who helped design the challenge.

While Tufts University’s contest directly inspired MasterCard’s experiment, the two set slightly different parameters. Tufts forbid ATM cash withdrawals, whereas MasterCard allowed ATM cash disbursements. The Tufts contest ran for one week, whereas MasterCard’s challenge lasted three months. Both, however, used social media engagement, including total views for blog posts and total number of retweets, to determine their winning teams. 

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