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Canadians overwhelmingly pivot to cards over cash

Like their American counterparts, Canadians are becoming card-first buyers, with nearly 8 in 10 (79 percent) going to that payment method first when making a purchase, according to a national study by payments and POS provider Square.

Additionally, 41 percent of Canadians polled for the study described themselves as "card-only" buyers who never use cash to pay for purchases, and 75 percent said they carry less cash than in the past — on average $46.50 ($36 in U.S. dollars) — and haven't visited a bank or ATM to withdraw cash in more than two weeks (17 days to be exact).

More than two-thirds of survey participants said that they would be more likely to buy from a local business if they could pay by card.

According to a press release from Square, "This will come as a surprise to the vast majority of cash- and/or check-only small businesses (85 percent), which don't think they're missing out on sales by not accepting cards."

Among the study findings:

  • While 88 percent of cash- and check-only small businesses agree that people carry less cash today than they used to, only 11 percent believe cards are their buyers' preferred payment method.
  • Two-thirds of Canadians (67 percent) think cash- and check-only businesses are old-fashioned, and nearly half (47 percent) avoid them. And equal number said they passed up a purchase because they couldn't pay by card.
  • Only 40 percent of cash- and check-only businesses wonder if they're inconveniencing customers by not accepting cards, while 64 percent of Canadians said they are frustrated when they can't pay by card.
  • The majority of small businesses (74 percent) believe they will always accept cash, but 22 percent are intrigued by the idea of not accepting it.

The study was conducted in March by Leger, who polled 1,566 Canadian consumers online and 316 Canadian small business owners by phone.