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More Canadians choosing credit cards, mobile payments over cash, study says

In 2015, credit cards accounted for the majority of transactions at 42 per cent, unchanged from the previous year.

Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canadian consumers are more inclined to reach for their smartphones and credit cards over bills and coins to make purchases, according to a new study.

Market and consumer information firm GfK conducted an online survey of 1,000 Canadians as part of a larger study on shopping behaviours.

In 2015, only 25 per cent of Canadian transactions were in cash, a decline of two percentage points from 2014. Meanwhile, credit cards accounted for the majority of transactions at 42 per cent, unchanged from the previous year. "We also saw a number of years ago in this country a very concerted effort by the card companies to get people to start using their cards for smaller payments. That clearly has worked," said Stephen Popeil, vice-president of GfK Canada.

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"We're clearly seeing that the use of cash is getting less and less in this country. Is it ever going to disappear? I don't think so, because of the nature of certain economies that are out there. But clearly, what we are seeing now is every year fewer and fewer payments are being made with cash."

Debit cards were at 28 per cent, followed by mobile device payments at 3 per cent. Each category saw marginal growth of a percentage point each compared to 2014.

In the case of mobile payments, GfK found that they tend to skew to younger and higher-income Canadians, as well as among urban dwellers and those with a higher education. But the high-tech payment method is also catching on with boomers and those of the silent generation born between 1925 and 1945.

"What we saw this year versus last year is a nice little increase in … perception of these benefits," Mr. Popeil said. "More boomers and more older retired Canadians from the silent generation are now acknowledging that mobile-payment systems are easier and faster and more efficient."

Despite the convenience afforded by mobile payments, Mr. Popeil acknowledged the research revealed concerns over security among consumers.

The survey found 53 per cent of Canadians agreed they were worried about their personal information when using a mobile-payment app, and only 22 per cent agreed they were confident that their mobile device payments were 100-per-cent secure.

"We have to figure out as an industry how we're going to communicate safety and security. That's a challenge, in my mind, for the whole fintech industry," Mr. Popeil said.

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"In many cases, how do we convince people that divulging certain things about their financial state via these systems is safe and secure? Once we've cracked that nut we're going to see massive uptake on a lot of this.

"It's got to be more than just biometrics, like you find Apple and some of the phones now with thumbprints. There's got to be some way to convince everyone that these systems are safe and secure."

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.

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