During the pandemic, how often have you reached into to your wallet or purse and instead of paying with cash, you reached for your contactless or “tap” debit card or credit card so you didn’t have to touch anything? If you used cash then you’d have to accept change, from someone else.
Everywhere you go, retail and grocery stores take great strides in sanitizing and wearing gloves, and even some places presenting you the point of sale machines through the drive through on a modified-looking selfie stick. Ingenious.
The move to a cashless society started long before the pandemic, but those that may have been on the fence moved quicker to using the tap feature on their debit or credit card, or even Apple Pay on their phone in a drive through or a grocery store where tap is available. It is more convenient for most people to use their card than to carry cash. Yet, some people just love the feel and perhaps status of having cash in their wallets. In Canada, the volume of cash transactions has declined over the past ten years, from 54% in 2009 to 33% in 2019, and the value of those transactions has also declined from 23% to 15% over that same ten year span. So, the lower the value of the purchase, the more likely we are to use cash. Things that are $15 or less, according to the Bank of Canada, we use cash. Purchases of higher value, the more likely customers are to use a debit or credit card. If you want to get gas in Alberta, you need to pre-pay, so that means you’re often going to pay-at-the-pump with a card, or go into the station to pre-pay. What about cheques? The volume use of cheques is down to 3.2%, although some big purchases are done with cheques and verified funds, like certified cheques. Paying with an electronic payment like an Interac e-Transfer is up 500% over a few years ago, although the volume of those transactions are still small compared to cash or cards.
When Encompass Credit Union introduced flash technology, the ‘contactless payment’ feature into their debit cards in 2018, some people were definitely on the fence about it, while others embraced it. Now that for the most part the myths have been debunked, and it’s clear that your money is safe and protected even if your card is stolen or lost. Usually, the contactless tap feature only allows a maximum purchase per tap under $100, and a maximum of $200 without another chip and pin reset, so most people relaxed. Especially since even those purchases, if made fraudulently, were secured by Interac. The idea of putting your credit card into your phone and paying with your phone is pretty high tech for some, while commonplace for others. Currently, Encompass’ Collabria credit cards have the ability to use Apple Pay, and likely in the future so will the debit cards, just not quite yet.
Seniors and those that may not have access to credit cards may rely more heavily on cash, but more and more of us are less reliant on having cash, and during the pandemic it seemed more and more likely to use a card instead, especially if you didn’t want to also go out to get cash from a branch or an ATM or touch the cash in return as change.
According to a 2018 survey conducted by the mobile payment company Square, upwards of nearly 80% of Canadians prefer paying with their debit or credit card over cash, and respondents noted that they average less than $50 in their wallets at the time of the polling. We will probably never be a fully cashless society, but we’re a lot more likely to hear the beep of the tap on a point of sale machine than the clinking of change in our pockets.