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Methods-of-Payment Survey

The Bank of Canada surveys Canadian consumers to get a better understanding of how they pay for goods and services. The Methods-of-Payment survey provides a representative snapshot of Canadians’ payment choices, with a focus on cash use.

As Canada’s sole issuer of bank notes, it is important for the Bank to understand the rapidly evolving payments landscape. The Methods-of-Payment survey was conducted in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2021.

This survey includes a questionnaire and a diary where participants record their payments and cash withdrawals over the course of three days. Using this information, we calculate the share of payments made with cash, credit cards, debit cards and other methods.

The payment choices of consumers and merchants are a two-way street. If you are interested to learn about the payment methods accepted by small and medium-sized businesses, check out the Merchant Acceptance Survey.

Latest results

  • The number of cash payments continues to decline – the share of cash purchases fell to 22% in 2021, a decline of 11% from 2017. However, the share by dollar value was stable. In other words, Canadians have been using cash less often, but for larger transactions. Restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic particularly affected the use of cash for payments since cash is used in-person.
  • The use of contactless payments continues to increase – 66% of debit card and 82% of credit card in-person payments were made using the tap-and-go feature.
  • Consumers are making fewer ABM cash withdrawals, but the amount of cash withdrawn and held by consumers has increased. The pandemic accelerated the overall demand for cash in Canada. Our surveys show an increase in consumer cash holdings particularly when COVID-19 case counts were high or rising.

To learn more about how Canadians pay, and their views on cash and cards, read the full survey report.

Cash on hand and ABM withdrawals

Cash on hand and ABM withdrawals
Year Average cash on hand ($) No cash on hand (%) Average ABM withdrawal ($) Average ABM withdrawals per month (qty) Made a withdrawal in the past week (%)
2009 72 5 113 4.4 44
2013 81 6 118 2.7 37
2017 106 11 140 2.3 27
2021 127 25 160 1.7 28

Payment shares over time – volume shares

Payment shares over time – value shares

Consumers see a future with cash

Note: Reported cashless means the respondent answered they have “already stopped using cash.” Actually cashless are those who state being cashless and report carrying no cash in their wallet, purse or pockets elsewhere in the survey.
Source: After the 2017 MOP, the Bank identified a need to conduct payment surveys more often, and fielded a Cash Alterative Survey (CAS) in August 2019. It covered additional topics like Canadians’ plans to go cashless. Subsequent waves of the CAS were accelerated due to the onset of the pandemic. The April 2020 CAS collected data during the first wave of COVID-19 cases, followed by a Cash Pulse Survey in July 2020. Follow-ups of the CAS were conducted in November 2020, April 2021 and August 2021.

Year No plans to go cashless % Reported cashless % Actually cashless % Cashless within 5 years % Cashless in more than 5 years %
August 2019 82 10 4 6 2
April 2020 74 19 10 6 1
July 2020 78 14 6 7 1
Nov 2020 80 12 5 7 1
April 2021 78 13 6 7 1
Aug 2021 81 13 6 5 1
Nov 2021 79 14 7 6 2

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