Money & Business

Report: Cashless Payments Surge in Popularity Worldwide

By / Jan 19, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A British data firm reports that cashless transactions, including cards and credit transfers, have seen a major rise in uptake in recent years. Visa recently announced a program to give cashless payments a nudge with small businesses.

The move toward a cashless society isn’t just gaining steam at popular fast-casual chains.

According to research from the British financial data firm Retail Banking Research (RBR), the trend of moving away from cash for most transactions is picking up steam all over the world.

RBR’s report [PDF] states that 471 billion cashless payments were conducted in 2015, a jump of more than 50 percent from 2011. Card-based transactions were the most popular type of cashless payment in every portion of the world except the Asia-Pacific region. But while cards are most commonly used, the value of such transactions is very low, making them worth only a small portion of all payments made. (Credit transfers and direct deposits tend to be used more commonly for high-price transactions.)

Meanwhile, ATM use over the same period saw an increase, but by 33 percent—a smaller percentage compared with cash-free transactions.

The research firm sees the trend growing for a few reasons. RBR reported last year [PDF] that card-based payments were expected to grow by 55 percent between 2015 and 2021, with the largest growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

Additionally, contactless cards and instant credit transfers are likely to become more common around the globe, probably with the help of mobile payments.

“The soaring use of contactless cards for low-value payments as well as immediate payment initiatives, which will facilitate person-to-person mobile payments, will further displace cash usage over the coming years,” stated Chris Herbert, an RBR senior associate.

Of course, not every kind of cash-free payment is seeing growth. Checks, which represented 10 percent of transactions in 2011, fell to just 4 percent in 2015—with usage falling even in countries, like the United States, where check payments are still common.

Pushing Retailers Forward

While cashless transfers are popular, certain types of payments, like mobile transfers, are proving more popular in other parts of the world, such as China, compared with the United States.

A new campaign from Visa could change that state of affairs. Business Insider reported earlier this month that Visa would launch a campaign called the Cashless Challenge, which intends to push smaller merchants toward cash-free payments.

The firm will select 50 small food-service merchants as part of the challenge and offer them $10,000 to upgrade their payment infrastructures to accept card and mobile payments in exchange for limiting cash payments.

Visa, which represented nearly 60 percent of card-based payment transactions in 2016, has much to gain from the strategy because small businesses have traditionally been a tougher sell when it comes to cashless payments.

According to The Wall Street Journal [subscription], cash still represented 32 percent of U.S. consumer transactions in 2015—down from 40 percent three years earlier, but still a big chunk of the pie.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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