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Not All Generations Pay the Same Way

Eleanor Hecks
May 8, 2023
6 min read

Businesses must be aware of their target audiences but also understand they could have customers from any age group. Even if Gen-Z’ers are your demographic, you might find their parents or grandparents sometimes purchase gifts for them. Ensuring you have a way each generation prefers to pay helps you avoid missing out on sales.

Why Are Generations So Different?

The world is more connected than at any other time in history, yet different generations are as far apart as at any other time in history. Currently, Millennials are the largest generation group, making up about 21.8% of the population. 

Knowing who your customers are is your first step to ensuring you offer the payment options they’re most likely to embrace. If you’ve ever visited a site, added a product to your shopping cart, and bounced away during the checkout process, it could have been due to the lack of payment options. Don’t let that happen to your business because you didn’t offer a selection the buyer wanted. 

Each generation is born at a select time in history and has different experiences that make different technology more comfortable. Understanding the preferences of each ensures you offer the payment options your core demographic is most comfortable with. However, it can also help you implement payment gateways for every potential buyer.

Baby Boomers

Baby boomers prefer to shop in a store rather than online. The entire e-commerce revolution is quite new to them, with all of its impersonal shopping and waiting for items to arrive. For the majority of their lives, this generation went to a store, found what they wanted, paid cash for it, and took it home. They didn’t have to order shoes and hope they fit. There was no need to input information and pay online. 

That said, cash is not nearly as popular for payments as it once was and most boomers understand the limitations, especially when purchasing in the online world. Studies show cash has lost favor with the majority of United States consumers, with only 19% of payments coming from physical money. 

Although baby boomers prefer to write a check or pay cash, they are well-versed in how to utilize a credit or debit card and are able to use these methods when necessary. They are quite cautious about sharing personal information and will check your site security before buying online.


Gen-X is often the forgotten generation. They are the first children whose parents both worked outside the home and were dubbed “latchkey kids” as they would let themselves in the house after school. They’ve proven to be resilient and able to adapt well to the many changing technological advances they’ve seen in their lives. 

Gen-Xers know a world without cell phones or the internet as we know it today. At the same time, they like the world wide web and their smartphones. They had to learn MS-DOS to use the first home computers and they played on the first Atari gaming systems. They have a built-in propensity for artificial intelligence.

They enjoy streaming their favorite movies from the 1980s. Most of them know how to pay with PayPal, Venmo, and many other methods. Since they do adapt so well, they will likely pay with whatever methods you offer but may prefer something secure such as a credit card.

Millennials reports around 75% of millennials have a PayPal account. They’re adept at splitting bills with friends or using cash apps. 

The largest generation is one of the first to grow up with smartphones. They can text at the speed of light and they know their way around a computer and apps. They’re careful about how they spend their money but they’re happy to pay with methods such as digital payments or even bitcoin. 

Whatever payment methods you choose, be cautious about who you align yourself with when marketing to this generation. Around 90% of millennials care about the authenticity shown by the brands they buy from. If they feel you are just choosing a payment gateway to win their business rather than choosing what you feel is best for them and your company, they may walk away and never look back. 


Gen-Z is made up of people born in 1997 and after. They are the first to grow up fully with technology such as social media and cell phones. They are known for being ambitious, preferring experiences to physical items and are gamers. 

However, some are quite anxious about the world and the way it is—much driven by school shootings and world events they’ve seen in their lifetime. Since they are so adept at changing technology, they are able to pay via almost any digital means imaginable. 

Many have tapped into the efficiency and convenience of digital wallets. They look for opportunities to use Apple Pay, for example. Surprisingly, they are reluctant to use credit cards and prefer to use cash or debit cards. They’re open to alternative payments via cryptocurrency or cash apps. 

How Will Future Generations Pay?

The next generation coming of age will be Generation Alpha. Born in 2010 or after, the oldest in this age group has just come into their teen years. If your demographic is younger, you’ll likely need to market to them and their parents, which are the millennials for the most part. 

Expect the younger generations to adapt to any new currencies introduced and continue with digital payments. It’s hard to say if society will ever be fully cashless in our lifetimes. However, it does seem to be trending that way with more people shopping online than ever before. 

Pay attention to what your customers want and their preferred payment methods. The more options you offer, the happier your customers of all ages will be.

eleanor hecks guest author

Eleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is the editor in chief of Designerly. She’s also a web design consultant with a focus on user interface and style guides. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and goldendoodles, Bear and Lucy. Connect with her about marketing, design and/or tea on LinkedIn.