Majority of Canadians (58 per cent) still spending less nearly a year following Canada declaring state of emergency due to pandemic

COVID-19 maintains grip on shifting spending and purchasing preferences; 42 per cent say digital-first mindset here to stay

OTTAWA, March 9, 2021 – Payments Canada released the latest data on Canadian payments trends since the onset of COVID-19, showing that spending below pre-pandemic levels continues, and that Canadians demonstrate an ongoing reluctance to handle cash, payment terminals and ATMs. Around 58 per cent of Canadians report spending less overall -- compared to 61 per cent in September 2020 -- while 42 per cent report that COVID-19 has changed their payments preferences to digital and contactless for the long-term.  

The study provides a moment-in-time perspective on Canadian spending behaviours compared to pre-COVID-19, and acts as a follow-up to prior study waves in May and September 2020.

The new data indicates that many payments trends observed in September 2020 resulting from the pandemic continue, including:

Decline in handling of cash, payment terminals and ATMs 

  • 53 per cent of Canadians report using less cash than pre-COVID (cash usage is up slightly from September 2020 when 57 per cent of Canadians reported using less cash) 
  • 37 per cent report they do not expect to return to using cash payments to the same extent as pre-COVID once the pandemic recedes
  • 38 per cent of Canadians are uncomfortable handling cash, compared to 42 per cent in September 
  • 67 per cent are using ATMs less, compared to 64 per cent in September
  • 37 per cent report being uncomfortable when they have to touch debit or credit card payment machines 

Preference for contactless payments 

  • 47 per cent of Canadians report tapping their credit cards more versus 42 per cent who report tapping their debit cards more, compared to 47 and 46 per cent respectively in September 2020
  • 54 per cent try not to exceed the contactless limit when buying something in-store, compared to 50 per cent in September 
  • 37 per cent try to avoid shopping at places that do not accept contactless payments, compared to 36 per cent in September   

While spending is down, Canadians favour credit/debit cards and e-Transfers 

  • 33 per cent of Canadians report using credit cards more often than pre-pandemic, compared to 32 per cent in September 2020
  • 20 per cent report using debit cards more, compared to 21 per cent in September 
  • 25 per cent say they use e-Transfer more, with no change since September

Increased use of e-commerce platforms

  • 49 per cent of Canadians report using e-commerce platforms more often than pre-pandemic, compared to 48 per cent in September 2020

Dramatic increase in spend on food and food delivery services; Canadians tipping more 

  • 58 per cent of Canadians report spending more on food overall, compared to 54 per cent in September 2020  
  • 28 per cent of Canadians report using food delivery services such as Uber Eats and Instacart more often than pre-COVID, compared to 29 per cent in September 
  • 40 per cent report tipping more than pre-COVID, compared to 41 per cent in September 

About the study 

The payments trends during COVID-19 study was compiled by Payments Canada to help build an understanding of how the Canadian payments landscape has shifted in-light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In total 1,501 Canadians, 18 years of age or older were interviewed from December 3-16, 2020. The findings in this report are sourced from the Leger/Payments Canada, 2020 Consumer Payments Behaviour Tracker Survey. 

About Payments Canada

Payments Canada is a public purpose organization that owns and operates Canada’s payments systems, the Large Value Transfer System (LVTS) and the Automated Clearing Settlement System (ACSS). Payments Canada is responsible for the physical infrastructure and the associated bylaws, rules, and standards that support these systems. It also has a duty to promote the efficiency, safety, and soundness of Canada’s payments systems while taking into account the interests of end users. In 2020, Payments Canada’s systems cleared and settled over $107 trillion - more than $420 billion every business day. Transactions that pass through these systems include debit card payments, pre-authorized debits, direct deposits, bill payments, wire payments and cheques initiated and received by Canadians and Canadian businesses. Payments Canada is working closely with the payments ecosystem to modernize Canada’s payments systems to ensure Canada and Canadian businesses remain globally competitive. Payments Canada will launch a new high-value payment system, Lynx, in 2021 and a real-time payment system, the Real-Time Rail (RTR), in 2022. 

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