Government Leadership May Accelerate Cashless Journey

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Riyadh, KSA MasterCard today unveiled a new global report “The Cashless Journey” that positions Kingdom of Saudi Arabia among those economies that have begun accelerating their move towards becoming a cashless society. The report, produced by MasterCard Advisors, explores the evolution of consumer payment patterns in 33 countries from five regions, representing more than 85% of global GDP, taking in both developed and developing nations, using a single methodology.

MasterCard Advisors’ research indicates that a country’s readiness to move to a cashless society is determined by factors like the accessibility and affordability of financial services; the scale and market share of retailers; the level of technology that is available; and participation of consumers in the formal economy.  

With a Readiness score of 57, Saudi Arabia has eliminated many of the typical macro-economic barriers for going cashless. However, low rates of financial inclusion, indicated by KSA’s majority unbanked population, may continue to have an adverse impact on the growth of cashless payments. With a Trajectory Indicator of 30, Saudi Arabia seems to be moving at a better than average pace on its cashless journey and the key reason for reduced cash share appears to be a substantial share shift from cash to debit cards between 2006 and 2011. The Share Indicator score for Saudi Arabia is 19, which puts the market in a category of countries that Advisors refer to as “Inception”, countries that are just starting their cashless journey.

Kevin Stanton, President, MasterCard Advisors comments: “While each nation’s journey is unique and requires an understanding of local realities, the benefits that come with a more cashless society are universal: more convenience for consumers, better efficiencies for governments, higher productivity for businesses, and greater financial inclusion for society as a whole by bringing more citizens into the economic mainstream. This report provides a roadmap for how countries can reap these benefits and enable a better life for all constituents.”

Khalid Hariry, market manager, KSA, Bahrain and Yemen, MasterCard, said: “Saudi Arabia is indeed moving at a better than average pace on its cashless journey, which has been significantly spurred along by government leadership. Regulation mandating wages assignment of employees’ to bank accounts has vastly increased access to electronic payment methods for the Saudi population over a short period of time. These changes, coming alongside initiatives to spur acceptance, and a push to migrate payments made during the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, can be expected to shift substantial share of consumer payments away from cash in the coming years.”

Among the key global findings of MasterCard’s “Cashless Journey” report:

  • The study focuses on the value of all consumer payments ($63 trillion in total spend), including those that happen beyond retail point-of-sale. In 2011, 34 percent ($21 trillion) of total global consumer spend was done with cash, with cashless payments accounting for 66 percent ($42 trillion).
  • The most rapid recent shift away from cash was observed in China, where cash share of the value of consumer payments is estimated to have declined by as much as 20 percent between 2006 and 2011. China (where an estimated 55% of the value of consumer spend was cashless) and the United Arab Emirates (26%) are among a group of countries where the respective governments have taken strong leadership in promoting electronic payments to support their social and economic goals.
  • The report identifies Belgium (where an estimated 93% of the value of consumer spend was cashless), France (92%), Canada (90%) and the UK (89%) as the countries where cashless payments are nearly ubiquitous.
  • Countries such as the United States (where an estimated 80% of the value of consumer spend was cashless) and Singapore (69%) are approaching the “tipping point” to becoming nearly cashless, and remaining cash use is largely a product of consumer habit. Conversely, emerging economies such as Indonesia (31%), Russia (31%) and Egypt (7%) are just embarking on their cashless journey.


The “Cashless Journey” report measure nations’ progress towards more modern, efficient payment processes by looking at the current share of cash versus non-cash payments for consumers (Share), how this share has shifted in the past five years (Trajectory), and whether conditions exist for cash payments to move to electronic (Readiness).

The report measure three components of progress:

  1. Share: the percentage of the value of all consumer payments (including utility, government, medical, loan, P2P payments for goods or services as well as merchant payments at retail point of sale) that are presently done by a means other than cash
  2. Trajectory: a measure of the shift in cash share of consumer payments’ value between 2006 and 2011
  3. Readiness: a measure of the future potential for conversion of cash payments to electronic payments

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About MasterCard
MasterCard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews, @MasterCardMEA join the discussion on the Cashless Pioneers Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

About MasterCard Advisors
MasterCard Advisors, the professional services arm of MasterCard, provides clients around the world with insights and solutions that drive business impact and ROI. The company uses advanced analytics and deep payments expertise to translate data into actionable behavioral insights and customized services. With analyses based on more than 80 billion anonymous transactions processed in 210 countries worldwide, the company leverages aggregated information and a consultative approach to help financial institutions, merchants, media companies, governments and other organizations grow their businesses. For more information, go to

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