Contactless payments have become much more common in Malaga. / MIGUE FERNÁNDEZ

The pandemic has changed the way people shop: more use of cards and contactless methods

The official advice to avoid using cash to stop the virus spreading, and the ease of the other methods has led to 40 per cent of payments now being cash-free


Covid has changed the way people shop and pay for their purchases in Malaga province. Since the pandemic officially began in March last year, the use of credit and debit cards has increased considerably and these are now used instead of cash in four out of every ten transactions.

The official recommendations not to use money in order to avoid physical contact with other people, combined with the increase in online shopping and the convenience of new methods of payment, have increased the use of cards, mobile phones or a contactless system by 17 per cent, according to sources at different banks.

Although the use of cards for payments was clearly increasing before the pandemic, Covid has speeded up the process.

According to a study carried out by GFK for Visa, consumers in Spain have increased their use of the contactless payment methods by 45 per cent and reduced their cash transactions by about the same amount since the pandemic began. Also, the Back to Business 2021 report, which was drawn up globally, concludes that this form of payment will remain the same or increase in the coming years.

On the other hand, only 16 per cent of people who took part in the survey said they would prefer to use the traditional methods of payment that they used before the pandemic.

Different studies carried out for Mastercard have shown similar results. They conclude that the majority of people (75 per cent) will continue to use this technology when the health crisis is over, because it is easier and more hygienic. They also consider that it is a form of payment which has been embraced by shops and companies, because 83 per cent of businesses in Spain now accept payments with mobile phone or contactless card. Of these, 94 per cent say they use them on a daily basis.

Lower costs for businesses

Although the increase is general among all businesses, the food and restaurant sectors have noticed it most. The Malaga Comercio association points out that the maximum amount that can be paid in cash is 1,000 euros, so the increase has been especially noticeable for small payments such as those for purchases in supermarkets, small shops and restaurants.

To give an example, one of the biggest chains of food stores in Malaga says this type of payment has increased from 30 per cent in 2019 to 40 per cent in 2021, which is 33 per cent in barely a year.

Meanwhile in the hospitality and catering sector, payments by card have grown the most. According to the Mahos association, the ratio before the pandemic used to be 60/40 (more payments in cash) but now that has changed and the figure is 40/60 (more payments using a credit or debit card).

Professionals in the sector recognise that this change has also come about because the banks have reduced the commission they charge for using credit card machines. Before the European Union fixed the commission rates by law, many businesses were reluctant to accept payment by card because of the cost involved for them. Nowadays, however, it is often possible to buy a simple loaf of bread and pay by card. As the old saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.