The coronavirus is accelerating the shift to cashless shopping in Australia as fears that coins and notes might spread infectious diseases are encouraging greater use of digital payments.
Data released Thursday shows that in March – considered the first Covid-19 month – use of one method of digital payments alone was two million transactions greater than the total for the peak shopping month in December.
A record $1bn in digital wallet transactions were recorded in March, according to Mastercard and Visa records tallied by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Some 77% of overall digital transactions in March were on a debit card, the CBA data shows.
The credit card spend grew at 21% over February’s total, debit card use jumped 16% month-on-month.
An increasing number of shops are refusing to take cash or are at least urging customers to tap-and-go with cards or digital wallets using mobile phones and watches.
And more are expected to follow Woolworths and Coles which last week increased from $100 to $200 the limit on transactions without using a PIN. The aim was to prevent infectious diseases which might lurk on PIN pads.
Kate Crous, executive general manager of everyday banking at the Commonwealth Bank, said “where possible we’re encouraging our customers to use digital wallets as they have the added safety of not needing to enter a PIN on the PIN pad no matter how much they spend, as it instead leverages touch ID or face ID”.
Retailers have noticed and encouraged the transition to greater use of contactless cards, chief executive of the NationalRetail Association Dominique Lamb told Guardian Australia.
“Particularly in food handling roles such as takeaways and coffee shops, we’re encouraging our members – and all retailers - to be even more mindful than usual of their hand hygiene and the importance of clean gloves and regular handwashing,” Lamb said. The CBA recorded a substantial jump last month in the use of its virtual cards on its Tap & Pay via mobile, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay.
There were 36m digital wallet transactions made in March, up from 33m in February and higher than the previous monthly record of 34m in December 2019.
The bank said the record $1bn digital wallet users spend in March was a 17% increase over the total for February.
The average spend for transactions was $28.
The number of wallet transactions rose 8% over the February tally, a much faster growth than the average monthly compound growth rate rise of 4.4% over the past six months.