Russia sees record share of cash-free transactions as it moves closer to cashless society

Russia sees record share of cash-free transactions as it moves closer to cashless society

The proportion of cashless payments reached a record high in the first quarter of this year, Russia’s largest lender, Sberbank, has revealed. Meanwhile, the central bank is eyeing even more cash-free transactions.

According to Sberbank data, the share of non-cash spending among Russians surged to 59.4% in the first three months of 2021, setting a new all-time high. Cash-free sales were up 3.5% quarter-on-quarter and 6.3% compared to a year ago. 

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The first quarter usually sees a growth in non-cash sales, but this year’s increase was still the biggest since 2018, exceeding even the growth rate during the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, the bank noted. 

“The higher share of non-cash sales should not be attributed to a temporary change in consumer preferences amid the pandemic,” Sberbank said in its research. The analysts at the bank added that the Covid-19 could have led to a new consumption pattern, with even more conservative part of the population turning away from cash. 

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People in some Russian regions are getting rid of cash faster than in others. Sberbank statistics show that more than 65% of transactions in eight northern regions were non-cash, while the leader among all Russian regions was Nenets autonomous district in the Arctic, which beat its earlier record with 72.8% in non-cash transactions.

For the whole of last year, the share of cashless payments amounted to around 70%, according to Russia’s central bank. The regulator now wants to increase the share of non-cash transactions to 75% by 2023, it said earlier this week. However, it acknowledged that this would not be an easy task. According to First Deputy Governor Olga Skorobogatova, every percentage point after the 70% level is harder to gain due to the specifics of the development of cashless payment instruments. She added that it took many countries more time to climb from 70% to 80% in cashless transactions than it did for them to get to the 70% level.

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