eCommerce: Popular Online Payments in the U.S.

Online Payment Trends in the US 2023: Cards & eWallets Compete

There's a wide range of payment methods in the United States, from Mastercard to Apple Pay. Choosing the right one can be tough. Discover how merchants decide and how providers stand out.

Article by Cihan Uzunoglu | January 11, 2024


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Online Payment

Online Payment Trends in the United States: Key Insights

  • Card Dominance: Cards are the primary payment method in the U.S. digital commerce market, accepted by 99% of top online retailers, reflecting consumer preference and retailer confidence.

  • Rise of eWallets: eWallets follow cards with an 83% acceptance rate, showcasing their emergence as a convenient alternative for online payments.

  • Installment Plans' Popularity: Installment payment options, available at 45% of online platforms, highlight the increasing popularity of flexible payment plans among consumers.

  • Visa & Mastercard Lead: Visa and Mastercard are the dominant players in the payment provider landscape, each with a 95% acceptance rate, while PayPal closely follows at 79%.

  • Emerging Players: Apple Pay, Afterpay, JCB, and Klarna are emerging payment providers gaining ground, signaling potential shifts in the future of digital commerce.

In our daily life, we might scroll through the online checkout of our favorite shopping page, entering our payment data without thinking about why we exactly chose this method. Often, we opt for the familiar payment methods, be it Mastercard, Visa, or perhaps Paypal, out of habit. And sometimes for simplicity and speed.

Meanwhile, the selection of payment methods grows day by day, ranging from electronic systems to eWallets. Digital wallets, in particular, have emerged as a growing contender for well-established payment providers over the past years.

Especially in the United States, the country where internationally known payment providers are headquartered, the question derives: Who leads the online payment trends? Is it Visa, American Express or perhaps Apple Pay? Let's cash out what lies beneath!

Consumers in the U.S. Prefer Cards, eWallets, & Installments 

Based on a snapshot of the U.S. digital commerce market taken in May 2023, our data exhibits the types of payment methods accepted by the top 500 online stores in the country. Cards are overwhelmingly the most accepted method, featured by 99% of these retailers. eWallets follow at an 83% acceptance rate, while other assorted payment methods are accepted by 64% of the stores. 

Installment payment options are available at 45% of these online platforms, with bank transfers at 9%, and direct debits at 8%. Cash on delivery and invoicing options round out the list, accepted by 4% and 3% of stores, respectively.

Most Popular Payment Methods in the U.S., 2023

The high acceptance rate of card payments emphasizes their integral role in the digital commerce landscape, indicating both consumer preference and retailer confidence in this established method. eWallets also affirm their status as a convenient and quick alternative. 

Installment options, accepted by nearly half of the retailers, point to the rising popularity of flexible payment plans. Bank transfers and direct debits are less commonly accepted, potentially due to longer processing times and lower consumer demand for these options. In addition, cash on delivery and invoicing, although rare, indicate that some retailers are willing to offer even more traditional methods for payment completion. 

Visa & Mastercards Lead the Payment Trends

Visa and Mastercard lead the lineup, each with a 95% acceptance rate among the top 500 online retailers in the U.S. American Express trails closely at 91%, and Discover is accepted by 81% of the stores. PayPal is featured by 79% of these online platforms, while gift cards have a 58% acceptance rate. 

Emerging payment providers also make an appearance. Apple Pay is accepted by 21% of these stores, Afterpay by 17%, and both JCB and Klarna are accepted by 16%.

Most Popular Payment Provider in the U.S., 2023

In summary, Visa and Mastercard recognized provider of U.S. digital commerce, followed closely by American Express. PayPal excels in convenience, and gift cards remain relevant. Emerging options like Apple Pay and Afterpay are cautiously gaining ground, with JCB and Klarna as potential future players. 

Merchants Favorite Payment Method: Avoid Fraud, Boost Conversion 

Payment options serve as a critical tool in thwarting eCommerce fraud, but fraud prevention is just one among various considerations for merchants when selecting which payment methods to offer.

According to Cybersource's 2022 survey, 27% of merchants prioritize payment methods that lower fraud risk, such as delayed options like Buy Now, Pay Later. About 21% prefer methods that boost conversion rates, reflecting growing consumer digital payment use. Another 20% value immediate fund availability through eWallets, and an equal percentage focuses on reducing payment processing costs linked to credit cards and PayPal. 

To encourage the use of their preferred methods, merchants deploy various strategies. Tied at 42% are advertising preferred options on websites and displaying them before reaching the payment selection stage. Both tactics aim to cut down on cart abandonment. Additional methods include offering customer incentives like discounts or cash-back rewards, cited by 40% of merchants. Surcharges for non-preferred methods are less common, used by only 28% of merchants, possibly due to regulatory constraints.

Card Payment

Visa & Mastercard: Steady Growth Amid Market Fluctuations

The U.S. companies Mastercard and Visa are well-known companies in the payment industry with electronic payment systems that enjoy great popularity. These players have shown robust growth, despite global crises and inflationary pressures. 

Last year, Mastercard saw an 18% growth in net revenues, highlighted by a 45% increase in cross-border volumes. Its net operating margins are nearing pre-Covid levels, standing two percentage points shy at 55.2% in 2022. The company’s brand value isn't lost on industry experts and analysts. It was listed as the ninth most valuable brand in the Kantar BrandZ Most Valuable Global Brands Report for 2023.

Top 10 Global Brands by Value, 2022 & 2023

Visa also performed well, with a 12% rise in net revenue and a 6% increase in net income in the first quarter of this year. Throughout 2022, Visa's cross-border volumes grew over 20%, particularly strong in March and July. 

Just as established providers like Visa and Mastercard serve as the industry's bedrock, upstarts like PayPal and Apple Pay are the wind in its sails. As these eWallet services jostle for market share in different regions, they bring into focus the complexities of consumer preferences and challenges facing the eWallet landscape.

PayPal's Popularity Challenges in Markets 

Amid shifting dynamics in the electronic payment sector, eWallets are contending for user preference across various geographies. While PayPal continues to be the dominant payment service in the United States – as well as European countries such as Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom – the company is not immune to market pressures. This year, the company’s share has dipped by 1 percentage point in the U.S. and a more notable 8 points in the UK. 

Other significant players in the digital payments race, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay are almost equally vying for market share in the U.S., capturing 34%, 31%, and 30% respectively, while PayPal stands at 81%. 

Furthermore, Apple Pay has seen a surge in France—moving from a 12% to a 19% market share—while leading the UK with a 37% share. Amazon Pay takes the lead in Germany with a 28% share.

Countries with the Highest and Lowest Share of Online Stores That Offer Payments via PayPal, 2023

Differing demographic preferences are also affecting market dynamics. Baby boomers overwhelmingly favor PayPal, with 89% sticking to this service. Millennials lean toward Google Pay and Amazon Pay, while Gen Z is showing a strong affinity for Apple Pay and the least for PayPal. 

However, PayPal faces limitations in markets like China and Japan, where its presence is notably lower. In these countries, as well as in Argentina, South Korea, and Serbia, PayPal's expansion is inhibited by the prevalent use of cash and strong preferences for indigenous platforms.

Online Payment Trends in the U.S.: Closing Thoughts

The growing diversity of payment methods is a positive trend for e-commerce. It shows that retailers are listening to their customers and offering them a variety of options to make it easy and convenient to shop online.

Sources: ECDB, secondary sources in the referenced articles