To borrow the tagline from the Capital One commercials, "What's in YOUR wallet?"
If you're like most Americans, there's a lot less cash in your pocketbook than there used to be.
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It's not that we're spending less. In fact, consumer expenditures per "unit" (families or single persons living alone) averaged $57,311 in 2016, up 2.4% from the previous year and up 7.1% from 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It's just that consumers are increasingly turning to the convenience of credit and debit cards for their daily purchases.
While some people (like my father) insist on carrying a wallet full of hard currency, most have transitioned away from the greenback and into plastic. Among the reasons: travel rewards, trackable spending reports, and credit refunds if there is a problem with the merchandise.
Whatever the reason, cards have become the universally preferred payment method. Morning coffee at Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX). Swipe. Groceries on the way home from work. Swipe again. Heck, even taxi drivers and stadium hot dog vendors now carry portable card readers.
I just read an illuminating study from market research firm Javelin Strategy that found that just 34% of all in-person sales transactions were remunerated with cash -- meaning 66% were paid by other means. That was a striking figure. But not until I finished reading did I realize that the report was dated June 2012, over five years ago.
You can bet those percentages are even more skewed now.
Given the fickle nature of consumers, picking winners and losers among retailers, casual dining chains, electronics makers and other such industries can be tough.
Will Target (NYSE: TGT) get its mojo back, or will shoppers flock to Walmart (NYSE: WMT)? Which travel agent books more snow ski trips this season, Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE) or Priceline (Nasdaq: PCLN)? Which video game console emerges on top, Microsoft's Xbox or Nintendo's Switch?
Investing in card-payment processing removes this kind of guesswork, because it doesn't matter who gains market share and who loses. Regardless of where people eat or what they buy, they usually swipe a card.
And they are doing it in record numbers.
While the cash register at your neighborhood drug store might still take in some $10s and $20s, it goes without saying that all ecommerce sales volume is handled electronically. The final numbers from Black Friday are in. According to Adobe, U.S. shoppers spent a whopping $5.0 billion online ($2.0 billion through the mobile channel alone).
Amazon reportedly sold 200,000 toys within the first five hours of the day.
Cyber Monday was even bigger, with sales reaching $6.6 billion -- the busiest shopping day in U.S. history. Total digital sales from November 1 through November 27 amounted to more than $50 billion, a healthy increase of nearly 17% over last year. At its peak frenzy, shoppers were spending an estimated $1 million per minute on their phones, tablets and PCs, according to Shopify.
For the full holiday season, Adobe predicts internet sales will top the $100 billion mark for the first time.
Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar stores have seen throngs of shoppers as well. I'd be remiss not to mention that while many naysayers expected to see a sharp decrease in foot traffic, data analytics firm ShopperTrak has concluded that Thanksgiving weekend retail traffic was on par with last year.
Whether it's online or offline, shoppers have spent an astronomical amount of money this season. Granted, this is an unusually busy time of year. Still, credit card spending doesn't exactly dry up the rest of the year. Annual spending volume in the U.S. topped the $1 trillion mark for the first time in 2000, rose to $2 trillion in 2010, and surpassed $3 trillion in 2015.
So we're measuring the increase not by the tens of billions, or even the hundreds of billions, but the trillions. And that's just charge cards. If you include debit and prepaid cards, annual spending exceeds $5 trillion in the United States -- and far more than that globally.
How To Invest In The Retail Tollbooth
We don't always know where consumers will spend their money. But we know how most of them will pay. And all those millions of swipes mean steady, recurring income for payment processors. These are the companies with the backbone technology to facilitate the authorization and settlement of purchases and transfer of cash from the issuing cardholder's bank to that of the merchant.
The point is, there are tens of thousands of electronic payment transactions every second of every hour of every day, 365 days a year. It never stops. And every time a card is swiped, a processing company receives a fee. It's like operating a toll booth on every corner gas station, every shopping center -- and even the internet itself. You can understand why I love this industry.
But I haven't found a good way for yield hunters to participate -- until now.
Take Global Payments (NYSE: GPN), which handles the processing needs of more than 2 million merchants in 30 countries. The company processed more than 7 billion transactions last year (225 per second) representing $425 billion in dollar volume.
The powerful evolution from cash to card has quadrupled GPN stock from $25 per share to $100 over the past five years. Unfortunately, it only pays a token quarterly dividend of $0.01 per share. That's not going to cut it for us here at High-Yield Investing.
There's a better way to hop on this train. I recently told my High-Yield Investing subscribers about a way to invest in the world's largest electronic payment processor and earn a 5.8% yield.
There's just one catch... it isn't through shares of the company. It's a bond.
The buying and selling of individual bonds isn't always an easy business, so this particular recommendation isn't for everyone. But my mission in High-Yield Investing is to find top-notch income streams for my premium subscribers wherever I can find them. If you'd like to gain access to my recommendation -- in addition to my entire portfolio -- simply go here.
This article originally appeared on StreetAuthority.