If someone asked to see your wallet, would you show it to them? I did—on the first day of the Yes Summit to a bunch of people I’d never met before. I like to share.

Actually, it was a group exercise. The youngest person at each table was asked to share the contents of his or her wallet and then answer questions from the group that might help them draw conclusions about how the 18-30 demographic spends money and what kind of products and services they use most. I’m 31, just slightly older than the target demo, but I was the youngest person at the table, and let’s face it, I still think I’m 21 most of the time.

First question from my group: Where’s your check book?

Answer: I only write one check a month – my rent check. Occasionally I write checks for charitable giving or to small places, like my CSA, who do not accept plastic.

How do you pay your bills then? I use Bill Payer.

Do receive paper bills or do you prefer paperless? It’s a mix of both, really. If a company makes it really easy for me to switch to paperless, I usually will as long as they send me email reminders that my bill is due.How much cash do you usually carry on you? I usually take withdrawals for $40 from the cash machine, so that’s usually the most I ever have on me at one time. Unless I’m traveling and then I might have up to $100.

Then, how do you typically make purchases? Debit card.

What about credit? If the purchase is more than about $50, I’ll use my credit card.

Why? It’s mostly psychological. I don’t want to see a big hit on my checking account. I’d rather have a large credit card bill and pay it off once a month. I know, it makes no sense.

How many credit cards do you have? I carry two in my wallet: a Bank of America card that earns rewards points that I use for cash back, and my Verity Platinum Passport card for dining out. I have two more cards at home that I only use at specific retailers.

What do you look for in a credit card and why do you use Bank of America? I have this B of A card because when I moved to Boston in ‘99 I got a Bank of Boston credit card and eventually they became B of A. I’ve never had any reason to switch cards. I pay my balance off every month, so rates aren’t a big deal to me, and I’m not really that into rewards programs because I don’t charge a lot to my card. I’ve never charged more than $2k in one month. I’d say my average bill is $500. I’ve thought about switching cards to get one that gives money back to my alma mater, but it’s too much of a hassle and I like the fact that I’ve had this card for a long time.

What are all those other plastic cards in your wallet if they aren’t credit or debit? I’ve got my health insurance card, my library card, 2 grocery store club cards, a Fred Meyer gift card and a Blockbuster card.

Do you like having to carry all that around with you? No. When I go out for dinner or drinks or just to hang out with friends, I try to only take my ID and either my debit or credit card. I hate having a wallet full of stuff.

So, would you be interested in one of those small credit cards that attaches to your key ring? No. B of A sends me those when my card renews and I shred them right away. It makes me nervous to have that on my keys. It’s just one more opportunity for theft.

If you had to leave the house and only take one item with you, would it be your cell phone or your wallet? My wallet. My cell phone can’t buy coffee.The point of this exercise was to show how much you can learn from someone by asking them about their wallet. Why not have a promotion where you give your members $10 for letting you ask them questions about their wallet? Imagine what you might learn. You’ll get so much more information from them this way than by just asking them things like, “What kinds of financial products do you use? How happy are you with your current credit card?”

Everyone at my table agreed that the information I provided was valuable. Isn’t this the kind of juicy stuff we try to get out of our members through focus groups and surveys? And I just gave it all up, for FREE.


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2 Responses

  1. Colin Henderson says:

    This is a fantastic view of a customer, and much more meaningful than “demographic” research.

  2. Ronald says:

    Extremely interesting!

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