July 19, 2021

MADRID (Reuters) – Cash was ousted as the main means of payment during the COVID-19 pandemic by Spaniards, who instead opted to pay by debit card last year, according to a poll published on Monday by the Bank of Spain.

In 2020, 54.1% of Spaniards preferred to use debit cards as their first choice of payment compared with 35.9% who opted to pay in cash. However, the use of cash rose to 37.5% in Spanish towns with less than 100,000 inhabitants.

The Bank of Spain said in its survey that the overall decline in the preference for cash has been showing a sustained trend since 2014, when almost 80% of respondents made it their first choice.

However, cash is still the most used means of payment in younger and older age groups, the Spanish central bank said.

Debit cards are the preferred means of payment for 64.8% of businesses, while 26.4% of small businesses still opted for cash, compared with 36.2% in 2019.

The poll comes just a few days after the European Central Bank took a first step towards launching a digital version of the euro, part of a global drive to meet growing demand for electronic means of payment, though also to tackle a boom in cryptocurrencies.

(Reporting by Jesús Aguado; editing by Steve Orlofsky)