Malta ranked in fifth place out of 32 countries in a study on the use of cash, and was one of only four which actually saw cash transactions increase, rather than decrease.

The Cap Gemini report looked at non-cash transactions, which include cheques, debit and credit cards, credit transfers and direct debit transactions – so the decrease noted by the study might indicate that cheques usage is finally going down – but there is clearly a long way to go.

Malta still only has around 100 non-cash transactions per capita, well below the US, which leads the ranking with some 400 non-cash payments per capita.

The Central Bank of Malta and the Malta Bankers’ Association have both been actively trying to discourage the use of cheques in favour of electronic transactions, while cash has remained entrenched in the Maltese culture.

There are some countries which are actively campaigning to remove cash from the societies, with some which have already abolished cheques outright. Globally the use of cheques declined by 10.8 per cent in 2014, after 13 years of falls.

Globally, debit cards are the favourite non-cash way to pay (45.7 per cent), while cards as a whole grew by 11.8 per cent in 2014 – faster than any other non-cash method.

Overall, the report found that non-cash transactions grew by 8.9 per cent and reached 387 billion in 2014, a record growth rate for the past decade since the first Cap Gemini report was first published. The rate is predicted to have continued during 2015, with an estimated growth rate of 10.1 per cent.

The report had disappointing news about mobile devices for corporate payments, saying that adoption has been slow.

“Mobile devices give corporate treasurers anytime and anywhere availability, increased control and reduced costs, and an additional payments channel, particularly in emerging markets.

“Use of mobile devices is, however, limited to approvals, alerts and analytics. As value-added features are developed, the applicability of mobile devices to corporate payments may improve – but their relevance for corporate payments initiation and execution is expected to remain low in the new future,” the report said.

(First issued in The Business Observer, distributed with Times of Malta.)

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