23% of US Consumers Owned Cryptocurrency in 2021

The White House is issuing executive orders about it, the Federal Reserve is furiously cogitating about policy, and meanwhile, the cryptocurrency markets keep rolling ahead at the speed of commerce.

“The US Crypto Consumer: Cryptocurrency Use in Online and in-Store Purchases,” a PYMNTS and BitPay collaboration, examines the crypto revolution with a hard data look revealing where US consumers stand on the matter, making it required reading for merchants especially.

  • Twenty-three percent of consumers — an estimated 59.6 million people — owned at least one cryptocurrency in 2021, up from 16% (an estimated 41.5 million people) in 2020.

In a census-balanced survey of more than 2,330 US consumers who are current or former cryptocurrency users and cryptocurrency nonusers conducted between Feb. 22 and March 2, we found that cryptocurrency ownership reached historic highs in 2021 of 23%.

Only 7% of respondents said they previously owned and had gotten out of the asset class.

The share of consumers owning cryptocurrencies in 2022 also increased 4 points from 2021.

  • One-quarter of consumers prefer merchants that accept cryptocurrencies.

With spendable crypto holding the key to unlocking the potential of the category, its biggest proponents — millennials and bridge millennials — are now willing to drop retailers that don’t accept it as a payment method — a clear signal to merchants about what options are expected at checkout.

“Millennials and high-income consumers owning cryptocurrency are the most likely to switch to merchants that accept it as payment,” the study noted. “More than one-quarter of high-income consumers say they are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ likely to switch merchants, compared to 18% of middle-income consumers” and 14% of lower-income earners.

“At 32%, millennials are the most likely to say they are ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ likely to switch, followed by Generation Z consumers and bridge millennials, both at 27%,” the study found.

  • Nearly 60% of consumers who don’t own cryptocurrency also don’t know enough about the underlying technology to feel comfortable buying it.

Between its relative newness and the debate around its role as an investment or as something spendable online and in-store, many consumers are understandably confused by what crypto is, how to use it and even how to get in.

Per the report, 56% of consumers “who do not own cryptocurrency feel they do not know enough about it to feel comfortable purchasing it, and 30% say they do not know how to purchase it.”

Word is spreading fast though, as only 6.7% of consumers have never heard of cryptocurrency.

Get the study: Cryptocurrency Use in Online and in-Store Purchases



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