Cash has ceased to be the most common method of payment in Saudi Arabia for the first time, according to a study of payment methods in the Kingdom during 2021.
Saudi Central Bank (SAMA)’s National Payments Usage Study assessed consumer payment habits (cash and non-cash), across all market sectors; individuals, business, and the government sector. The report covered the use of payment methods across the market, and gives detailed insights into the most used instruments, by whom and for which purchases.
Saudi Arabia is undergoing massive economic development transformations that are centred around its national economic development strategy, Saudi Vision 2030. One of its original delivery programmes is the Financial Sector Development Programme (FSDP), which is focused on the promotion of digital payment solutions to transform the Kingdom into a less-cash society by reaching 70 per cent non-cash payments by 2025.
According to the study, the use of electronic payments increased from 44 per cent in 2019 to 62 per cent of all payments by volume in 2021. These transactions represent 94 per cent of all payments when measured by value.
Cash is no longer the most used method of payment by individuals, as electronic payments of individuals have grown significantly to reach 57 per cent in 2021 of the total number of transactions executed, compared to just 36 per cent in 2019.
Electronic payments reached 84 per cent of all business payments in 2021, an increase of 65 per cent over two years. Meanwhile, the government sector has almost completely converted to electronic payment methods of all outward government payments to individuals, business establishments or other government agencies.
The study concluded: “The ratio of 70 per cent of all consumer payments to be non-cash by 2025 appears credible, given the mid-year 2021 ratio of 57 per cent non-cash.
“However, while innovation and development in the broad digital payments space continues to support (consumer and business) customer choice in payment means – including regulatory and technical systems reform to support new payment service providers and new payment solutions – cash will remain a significant and important feature in the overall payments ecosystem in country.
“To this end, cash will continue to be supported by the Saudi Central Bank in its strategic payments programme.”