Most Canadians still spending less a year after emergency declared

OTTAWA – Payments Canada recently released the data on Canadian payment 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% 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% 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% report they do not expect to return to using cash payments to the same extent as pre-COVID once the pandemic recedes;

  38% of Canadians are uncomfortable handling cash, compared to 42% in September;

– 67% are using ATMs less, compared to 64 per cent in September;

– 37% report being uncomfortable when they have to touch debit or credit card payment machines;

– 47% of Canadians report tapping their credit cards more versus 42% who report tapping their debit cards more, compared to 47 and 46% respectively in September 2020;

– 4% try not to exceed the contactless limit when buying something in-store, compared to 50% in September; and

– 37% try to avoid shopping at places that do not accept contactless payments, compared to 36% in September.

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

– 3% of Canadians report using credit cards more often than pre-pandemic, compared to 32% in September 2020;

  20% report using debit cards more, compared to 21%in September; and

– 25% say they use e-Transfer more, with no change since September

Increased use of e-commerce platforms:

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

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

– 58% of Canadians report spending more on food overall, compared to 54% 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; and

– 40% report tipping more than pre-COVID, compared to 41% 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 Dec. 3 to 16.