How Payment Method Preferences Differ with the Generations and Why It Matters to Your Clients

Merchants need payment solutions that optimize experiences for all customers, regardless of their age.


Today’s consumers want personalized, convenient service. However, what constitutes a good experience differs greatly based on generational demographics. Merchants need the flexibility to meet the demands of all of their customers, including accepting the payment methods they prefer. Payment choice contributes to better customer experiences and, as a result, may lead to higher sales conversions and loyalty. Giving consumers the option to use payment cards, mobile wallets, alternative payments, and more could be the difference between a consumer deciding to purchase from your client or doing business elsewhere.

The Methods of Payment Different Generations Prefer

Research shows payment preferences can be traced across generational lines. ISVs who familiarize themselves with behaviors in each cohort, from Gen Z to baby boomers, can make informed decisions about how to provide solutions that meet the demands of consumers of all ages.

Gen Z

Gen Z is a focus for many businesses. America alone is home to about 70 million of these teens and 20somethings born from 1997-2012. They’re a cash-loving cohort, and research shows inflation is increasing their use of currency. However, they’re the most digitally fluent generation, open to using payment apps. Additionally, their fear of accumulating credit card debt like their older counterparts has them turning to buy now pay later (BNPL) as a payment method for larger purchases.


Social media is a huge factor in online shopping for millennial consumers, born between 1981 and 1996, although many regret hasty social media purchases, making easy returns a must for these shoppers. Millennials enjoy the convenience of peer-to-peer payments like PayPal, Zelle, and Venmo. They are also comfortable using their mobile wallets for tap-and-go ease and to accumulate loyalty rewards. Above all, millennials crave payment methods that make their hectic lifestyles a little bit easier.

Gen X

Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen X consumers love supporting small local businesses. In-store, they look for the ease of contact-free payment methods, and online they gravitate toward fast, one-click ordering. They’re not as privacy-wary as Gen Z, so they’ll provide their personal data for rewards and discounts.

Baby Boomers

Of all of the generations on this list, baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 have the most disposable income. Baby boomers were shopping long before online retail, and heading out to stores was a fun social activity for them. However, the pandemic gave them little option but to move their buying online. They don’t like carrying a card balance from one month to the next, and although many still use cash or checks, they are open-minded about user-friendly digital payment methods.

Ensure Payments Integration Results in Payments Choice

Generational differences in preferred payment methods underscore the need to integrate your software with a flexible payments solution that supports all options. Furthermore, consumer behaviors and preferences evolve as new technologies become available and circumstances change, e.g., rapid adoption of contactless payment methods during COVID-19. Locking your clients into accepting only a few payment options will limit their ability to compete by providing the payment experiences their customers want.

The best strategy is to integrate your software with comprehensive, scalable payment technology that merchants can tailor to their current needs and adapt as consumer behaviors change.

Enter into payment partnerships strategically to enable payment methods that optimize customer experiences, offering something for everyone.


Your merchants trust you to help grow their business. Trust Elavon to help you grow yours. Backed by the strength and stability of U.S. Bank, Elavon’s partner programs accelerate your speed to market, maximize revenue, and scale your business for sustainable growth.

Elavon has the people, process and technology to reduce your merchants’ total cost of accepting payments. Put our knowledge and resources to work for you.