MasterCard Study reveals which economies are most rapidly moving away from cash; Electronic payments nearly ubiquitous in Australia while Singapore approaches cashless tipping point 

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Singapore – September 30, 2013MasterCard today unveiled a new global report “The Cashless Journey” that tracks how 33 major economies are progressing from cash-based to cashless societies. The report, produced by MasterCard Advisors, identifies new technologies, government programs and consumer preferences as key factors that are driving this shift, creating more productive and inclusive economies.

Aimed at gauging the progress made by markets in achieving the benefits that come with a more cashless economy including more convenience for consumers, better efficiencies for governments and greater financial inclusion for society, the report also provides a roadmap for how countries can reap these benefits and accelerate the Cashless Journey.

Here are some of the key findings of MasterCard’s latest report:

  • Of the $63 trillion in total global consumer spend in 2011, 34 percent ($21 trillion) was done with cash, with cashless payments accounting for 66 percent ($42 trillion).
  • The report identifies Belgium (where an estimated 93% of the value of consumer spend was cashless), France (92%), Canada (90%), the UK (89%), Sweden (89%), Australia (86%) and the Netherlands (85%) as the countries where cashless payments are nearly ubiquitous, and attributes these nations’ broad movement away from cash to the uptake of new cashless payment technologies such as mobile, contactless and EMV Chip and a modern payments infrastructure.
  • While countries including the United States (where an estimated 80% of the value of consumer spend was cashless) and Singapore (69%) are considered to be approaching a “tipping point” to becoming nearly cashless, emerging economies such as Indonesia (31%), Russia (31%) and Egypt (7%) are just embarking on their cashless journey – in many cases they are shifting cash share at a faster pace than their more developed cashless society peers thanks to factor such as a growing middle class.
  • Countries such as Brazil (57%), Poland (41%) and South Africa (43%) are in a transitioning stage, having developed many elements of a modern payments infrastructure and shifting share away from cash quickly.

Asia/Pacific Highlights

The study focuses on ten countries across Asia/Pacific – Australia, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Singapore, India and Indonesia – and shows a huge variation among the countries in the region in the progress they have made in their cashless journeys.

  • Australia is in the final stages of its cashless journey having moved the vast majority of the value of consumer payments to cashless methods and having removed all major roadblocks to cash conversion. A focus on innovative payment solutions including contactless solutions and new pricing schemes could accelerate the migration of low value payments to cashless.
  • Japan, Korea and Singapore are slightly less far along in their journey than Australia and are at a tipping point where the right measures can move them to the final stages of the journey. Although Japan seems to have plateaued in its progress, Korea and Singapore seem to be on track if they continue with their current cashless initiatives. To accelerate the Cashless Journey in these countries, consumer attitudes and behaviors towards cash usage need to be well understood and accommodated.
  • China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand are in the middle of their transition to cashless, having created most of the requisite infrastructure to go cashless, but still with large pools of cash payments.

The fastest movement away from cash was seen in China, where cash share of the value of consumer payments is estimated to have declined by as much as 20 percent between 2009 and 2011. In China, where an estimated 55% of the value of consumer spend was cashless, the government has taken strong leadership in promoting electronic payments to support their social and economic goals.

  • India and Indonesia are just beginning their cashless journey. These countries need to continue building the infrastructure for electronic payments as well as learn from other countries as to how to accelerate their journey. Initiatives by the Indian government such as electronic disbursement of benefits and innovative mobile payment solutions in Indonesia are steps in the right direction.

Pierre Burret, Region Head, Asia/Pacific, MasterCard Advisors, concludes: “The diversity of the Asia/Pacific region is apparent in the varied progress that countries have made in their adoption of electronic payments. While countries such as Australia lead the cashless charge, others such as Japan, Korea and Singapore are on the tipping point where cashless payments may soon be ubiquitous. On the other hand, emerging markets such as China and India speak to the importance of government leadership in promoting electronic payments in order to bring more citizens into the economic mainstream ensuring financial inclusion for all.

Overall, markets in Asia/Pacific have made real progress on their journeys by establishing basic infrastructure over long periods of time. In order to ensure this journey continues, a few things are vital including the availability of affordable financial products, a vibrant and competitive merchant market place and a transparent and productive business environment.”

MasterCard Advisors’ research indicates that how ready a country is 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. However, in countries such as Germany (where an estimated 76% of the value of consumer spend was cashless), Japan (62%), Spain (54%) and Taiwan (43%), cultural behavior appears to be keeping cash usage higher than market conditions would suggest.


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

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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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