The rise of digital watchers

Till Ebner, Dr. Thomas Nellen and Dr. Jörn Tenhofen



JEL classification
D14, E41, O33, G20

Payment behavior, control motive, pocket watcher, digital watcher, survey data, central bank digital currency


Many consumers use payment instruments to control their budget. Previously, such behavior has been associated with checking disposable cash ("pocket watching"). Based on recent survey data, we show that "digital watchers" have emerged, i.e., noncash payers who use digital applications to control their budget. Both watcher types have distinct characteristics. Pocket watchers tend to have lower incomes than other consumers, while digital watchers ascribe low security risk to payment cards. Watching behavior influences current and future payment behaviors. Pocket watchers use cash more intensively than nonwatching cash payers. Digital watchers expect to intensify their reliance on noncash payment instruments more strongly than nonwatching noncash payers.