Without exception, using a credit or debit card was deemed more secure than a mobile phone, whether the purchase was made in-store or online, according to a survey sponsored by the National Cyber Security Alliance and PayPal. In addition, the personal computer was seen as the safest option for accessing the Web by 62 percent of the respondents versus six percent who chose a smartphone.
On a scale of one to five, with one being not secure, 84 percent of the 1,000 people polled rated paying by cash a four or five. Credit or debit cards got the same rating by 69 percent of the respondents for in-store purchases and 44 percent for online buying.
When it came to in-store and online mobile transactions, the number of people giving similar ratings fell to 20 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Nearly seven in 10 didn't feel that storing payment information on a smartphone was safe, and 60 percent said they were either concerned about security or didn't know enough about it.
Many surveys have shown that security weighs heavily on consumers' minds when opting not to use their smartphones for purchases. Other discouraging factors include the slowness of many mobile phones and the difficulty of buying on a small screen.
"A lot of sites are not optimized for buying on a mobile device yet," Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, analyst for Forrester Research, said.
When asked how many transactions a day they made on a smartphone, 72 percent of the respondents in the PayPal/NCSA survey said none and almost 24 percent from one to more than five. Transactions could include banking, shopping or buying coffee.
Mulpuru-Kodali found that number high with Forrester pegging the percentage of Americans doing any e-commerce on mobile phones as 10 percent "tops." Among those who do shop, most are concentrated around Amazon, eBay and flash sale sites, such as Groupon and Gilt Groupe.
"I'm a little skeptical of these numbers," Mulpuru-Kodali said. "It seems like it's a highly biased sample of people who are very active mobile users."
When looking only at in-store and online purchases, the number preferring a smartphone was six percent and seven percent, respectively, according to the survey. The majority of the respondents preferred cash or credit and debit cards, and 41 percent preferred a PC for online shopping.
While security researchers have been skeptical about biometrics, PayPal and NCSA found people willing to give them a try as a password or PIN replacement. Fingerprint and retinal scanning were the favorites with 53 percent and 46 percent of the respondents, respectively, rating them a four or five.
People kept their mobile phones close with 47 percent saying it was either in their hand or within arms reach. Fully, 20 percent said it was no further than a room away.
Oddly, the majority of respondents said their smartphone was more likely to get lost or stolen than their wallet, even though more of them had actually had the latter lost or stolen.
PIN usage remained unpopular with only 34 percent using one to lock their phones.