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Belgians shy away from cash payments

Credit: Belga

Only about 13% to 16% of Belgians prefer to use cash to pay for purchases, while 7 out of 10 are familiar with contact-free payments, according to this year’s Barometer of Digital Payments, published on Saturday.

The annual survey, conducted by Bancontact Payconiq Company, Febelfin, Mastercard, Visa and Worldline, in collaboration with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB – Free University of Brussels), focuses on the payment habits and preferences of Belgians.

It shows that no-contact payments have increased in popularity among Belgians of all ages, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. While in 2019, only one-third of respondents said they were familiar with such payments, the rate went to 47% last year, then jumped to 70% this year.

Foremost among the converted are senior citizens aged 65-74 years, 76% of whom have used a no-contact payment method at least once in 2021, up from 36% a year ago.

“Among those who paid at least once without contact, the highest age groups prove to be more familiar with this system than youths aged 16 to 24 years,” the Federation of Financial Institutions (Febelfin) commented.

No-contact cards are the preferred mode of payment for 36% of respondents, compared to 16% a year ago, while 37% still prefer to insert their cards into a machine, down from 60% in 2020.

Using a smartphone to pay for in-store purchases is also becoming more popular. Some 35% of respondents said they had used their phones at least once for such payments, as against 30% last year. Smartphone payment is most popular among young Belgians in the 16-24 age group, 25% of whom listed it as their preferred mode of payment.

Overall, 4 out of every 10 Belgians said they were comfortable with paying by smartphone, while one-third of those who had not yet used theirs to do in-store shopping said they planned to do so in future.

Cash would appear to be on its way out. Only 13% to 16% of respondents still prefer to make cash payments, with the drop in the popularity of liquid cash most pronounced in the youngest and oldest age groups.

Just 9% of 65-to-74-year-olds prefer paying by cash. According to Febelfin, this could be a result of the health crisis since, as senior citizens are more vulnerable to the coronavirus, “they have manifestly begun to avoid liquid cash.”

6% of respondents said they never had liquid cash on them, while 42% never carry more than €20 around. The average Belgian wallet contained €55.60 in cash in 2021 as against €61.20 before the pandemic.

Generally, cash payments dropped by 39% in one year, according to the study, which was conducted among 1,181 Belgians in March 2020 and 1,176 in March 2021.

The Brussels Times