The RBA noted that its latest Consumer Payments Survey was conducted before the emergence of COVID-19 in Australia, something which it noted “induced substantial changes in payment behaviour”.
Before COVID, Australians were continuing to switch to electronic payment methods in preference to cash for their day-to-day transactions.
Debit cards were the most frequently used means of payment in 2019, overtaking cash as the single most commonly used payment method for the first time.
Overall, payment cards — debit and credit cards combined — were used for 63 per cent of the number of consumer payments in 2019, compared with 52 per cent three years earlier.
However, the RBA said the switch to electronic payment methods is likely to have accelerated as a result of consumer and merchant responses to COVID-19.
Contactless payments a long-term trend
The RBA said one of the most notable developments in recent surveys has been the strong growth in contactless card payments as a result of widespread adoption of this functionality by consumers and merchants.
The share of in-person payments made by tapping a debit or credit card on a card terminal increased to 50 per cent in 2019, from 10 per cent in 2013.
“Consumers are using cards more frequently for payments of all sizes and the adoption of contactless functionality has facilitated particularly strong growth in the use of cards for low-value transactions in recent years,” the RBA said.
“For example, the share of in-person payments of $10 or less that were made with cards rose by 20 percentage points relative to three years earlier, to 51 per cent in 2019.”
The survey also showed that Australian consumers used mobile phones or other payment-enabled devices to make “tap and go” payments more often than they did three years ago.
However, the RBA said such mobile payments still accounted for a relatively small share (around 5 per cent) of in-person payments, while other means of electronic payment such as BPAY and internet banking applications account for relatively small shares of the number of consumer payments (but a higher share when measured by the value of transactions).