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Belgians increasingly prefer digital payments

Credit: Belga

Digital payments are increasingly preferred over cash in Belgium, a trend only reinforced by the coronavirus pandemic, according to recent research from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).

Only 13% of Belgians still prefer to pay cash and 70% have already used contactless payments at least once, researchers found.

The increase in contactless payments is most striking when it comes to people between the ages of 65 and 74. Around 76% of people in this age group made at least one contactless payment in 2020, compared to 36% in 2019.

“Contrary to what most people suspect, contactless payments are not typical for the younger generations,” the researchers said in a press release, referring to low rates of usage in the 16 to 24-year-old age group.

One reason for an increase in the amount of contactless payments overall during the pandemic is that it’s considered more hygienic. Users simply tap their bank card against a payment machine, and a signature on a receipt is often not required.

The number of mobile payments has also increased, though more slightly, with only 4 out of 10 Belgians saying they’re comfortable paying by smartphone in a physical shop.

When it comes to cash, the numbers were more or less similar across age groups: on average, Belgians had €55.60 in cash in their wallet in 2021, compared to €61.20 before the coronavirus crisis.

The number of cash payments has sharply decreased by 39% in one year.

“Overall, we can conclude that since the start of the crisis, Belgians who like to pay by card prefer to do so in a contactless manner,” said the researchers.

“In the youngest and oldest categories, where there is still a relatively clear preference for cash payments, there is also a shift from cash to card payments via the terminal. Payments by smartphone are particularly popular among young people.”

VUB conducted its research with Bancontact Payconiq Company, Febelfin, Mastercard, Visa and Worldline.