Cash is king

In Malta, 85% carry cash on their person regularly. This proportion is marginally greater among men than among women. The most widely used banknote is the €20, followed by the €10 one.

A Central Bank of Malta survey shows how, while cash remains king in Malta, its use varies among different groups of Maltese society. 85% of those interviewed indicated that they carry cash on their person regularly. This proportion is marginally greater among men (88%) than among women (83%). The most widely used banknote is the €20, followed by the €10.

There’s also a clear generation gap in cash usage: 77% of young people and a whopping 98% of pensioners interviewed said they keep cash on hand. In Gozo 96% of people have cash with them regularly, against 82% in Cottonera.

On average interviewees have about €74 in cash on them. Men hold almost 20% more than average. Among young people, the amount is almost half the average, i.e. less than €40, while older people keep around three quarters above average. Residents in the south-east of Malta are significantly more likely to carry cash than those in the north.

Respondents said they usually withdraw money from the bank twice a month. Even here, age plays a role, with young people withdrawing once a month versus three times for those aged 45 to 54. The region with the most ATMs is in the Northern Harbour area. In fact, there are almost half of the country’s ATMs in this area: 177, against 25 in the south-east of Malta. 

Food and groceries take the biggest bite out of cash withdrawals, accounting for nearly 40%. Almost 20% is to buy fuel, and a similar amount is for other shopping, while almost 15% is for expenses in restaurants, bars, and clubs.

Only a quarter of interviewees keep money at home for savings purposes. Gozitans and the elderly mainly hold cash for this purpose.

Almost 70% prefer digital payments, with women and young people leading the charge, indicating a generational and gender shift. Those who prefer cash say this is because it gives them a sense of more control over their spending. This is in addition to a sense of privacy and a lack of charges on the use of cash. Amongst pensioners, convenience is the main reason behind the popularity of cash. Interestingly, among those who prefer digital payments, 57% say this is due to the convenience of these payment methods.

Despite the popularity of cash, a majority claimed that they would be reducing the use of this payment method in the coming years.  Yet, many stated that they would like retailers to keep accepting cash.

Despite predictions of a cashless future, Malta’s current trends suggest cash may retain its importance for some time.

Photo: Shutterstock

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