Over a third of the Maltese carry between €21 and €50 in their wallet, with fewer than one in every ten carrying more than €100, according to the Payment Habits Survey carried out by the Central Bank of Malta.

The majority of respondents (38.5%) normally carry between €21 and €50, while 20.9% of households carry between €11 and €20 and 18.3% carry between €51 and €100. Only 9.5% carry more than €100, the Central Bank said. 

Interestingly, 92.4% of households claimed ease of use as the main reason for using cash, saying it feels safer than other payment methods, in spite of the substantial risk as it can easily be stolen. Indeed, only 8% were comfortable carrying more than €200.

The bank’s survey, which found that households in 2018 still relied heavily on cash for most of their purchases. However, more people are using alternatives means of payment compared to the previous survey five years earlier.

The preference for traditional paper-based payment instruments – in spite of associated costs and risks – may be due to a variety of reasons, including reluctance to change their habits, lack of knowledge with regards to modern payment instruments, and also to suppliers who only accept payment by cash or cheques.

In general, between 2013 and 2018, there were significant increases in the accessibility of online payments, direct debits and prepaid cards. More purchases of a considerably high value are being paid by debit cards, credit cards and cheques instead of cash, while the younger cohort has a different perspective to various means of payment.

Looking ahead, a significant share across all age groups indicated that they still intend to use cash over the next five years, but a large percentage intend to make greater use of debit and credit cards in future, at the expense of cheque usage. In 2017, cheques accounted for 17.3% of non-cash transactions in Malta, the highest rate in the European Union, where the average is just 1.7%.

“Although cheques are not an efficient payment method due to the long clearing cycle and the very labour intensive and costly processing involved, these may be attractive mainly due to the fact that cheques are free and negotiable instruments,” the report says.

The report notes the lack of knowledge with regards to how secure each payment instrument is when it comes to the risk of permanent financial loss. Unwanted disclosure of personal information was also mentioned by respondents in the survey, which may explain why cash was cited by 29% as being the most secure payment instrument.

Furthermore when respondents had to answer about credit cards, prepaid cards, direct and credit transfers, mobile and online payments, they were unable to identify the extent of risk involved in these payment instruments.

The survey also indicates that there is lack of information about the benefits of the various payment instruments.

The report calls for a nationwide educational campaign to better inform the public of the advantages, disadvantages, benefits and limitations of all payment instruments enabling them to make better choices when effecting payments.

“The example of Tal-Linja card is a clear example that given the necessary information the public could be willing to switch to a cashless system and make use of cards and other payment instruments and channels,” it said.

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