Cash, card or smartphone: A global look at how consumers will pay after the pandemic

YouGov
June 21, 2021, 7:58 PM UTC

For some, physical cash has become a relic of a bygone era as many opted to avoid notes and coins for fear of catching and spreading COVID-19. Looking toward the post-pandemic world, new YouGov data sheds light on how many consumers will keep using cash and how many will reach for a credit card – or smartphone – to make their purchases. 

A survey of adults in 17 global markets shows close to two in five (37%) will use apps such as Venmo or Apple Pay for in-person purchases once the pandemic era ends. Half (51%) will use cash and 41% will use credit cards. But globally, debit cards (57%) will remain on top. 

But there are major differences in behaviors across these markets. In China, for instance, the vast majority of consumers (77%) intend to use mobile payments in the future, as do 72% of Indonesians and 64% of Danes. However, those in Denmark’s near-neighbours France (15%), Germany (20%) and Poland (21%) are least likely to take out their smartphone at the cash register.  

In Great Britain, roughly a quarter (27%) intend to use mobile apps to spend money on goods in person when the pandemic recedes. Intent among Americans is similar (24%). 

Any reports regarding the death of physical cash continue to be greatly exaggerated. Where mobile payment penetration is low, cash use will remain high; seven in ten Germans (69%), 62% of Brits and 59% of Americans will keep using paper money and coinage. Cash use in markets such as Denmark (31%), The United Arab Emirates (36%) and urban India (36%) will be the lowest compared to other markets in which we conducted research. 

As for plastic money, more than four out of five Brits (84%) will use their debit cards after the pandemic, as will most of France (72%) and Sweden (71%). Credit card use in Hong Kong (71%), Denmark (66%) and Singapore (60%) will be highest. 

As the globe navigated the pandemic, how we paid for goods and services changed substantially. Like other facets of life, we were left to wonder if COVID permanently changed how we buy and sell goods or if it merely put it on pause. While cash use remains strong in several markets, there’s no denying the meteoric rise of mobile payments – but also the enormous market-by-market variation faced by sellers.  

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Methodology: The data is based on the interviews of adults aged 18 and over in 17 markets with sample sizes varying between 511 and 2,093 for each market. All interviews were conducted online in May 2021. Data from each market uses a nationally representative sample apart from Mexico and India, which use urban representative samples, and Indonesia and Hong Kong, which use online representative samples.