September 7, 2021

Canadian Consumers Are Fuelling a Digital Transformation

Canadians have long been known for their snowy winters, love of hockey, and politeness. More recently, they’ve become known for their love of all things digital, including electronic payments. You see, more and more Canadians’ are leaving their chequebooks and billfolds at home in favour of credit cards and other digital payment options. Overall, consumer cheque usage has dropped nearly 30% and cash volume has dropped by 38% in the past five years.1 Credit cards are getting a good workout with transactions growing 16% since 2018–the biggest jump in credit card usage over the past five years. These numbers make it clear that the digital payment trend has taken hold in the Great White North, and businesses need to adapt to meet the changing needs and wants of the Canadian consumer.

Canada Is the World’s Most Cashless Economy

Canada is somewhat of a trailblazer when it comes to its uptake of cashless payments. A 2021 study ranked countries based on contactless payment limits, the number of major e-wallet operators, the number of ATMs per 100,000 adults, and the percentage of the population with a debit and/or credit card.2 According to the data, 83% of the Canadian population has a credit card, a higher usage than in any other country. Canada also has the highest contactless payment limit in the world at $250. Due to these factors, the study suggests that Canada is most likely to become the first country to ditch paper money for e-wallets.

Mobile Payments Are on the Rise

Canadians are among the most digitally attuned citizens in the world. The country boasts a remarkable 94% internet penetration rate3 and 80% of Canadians report that they have a mobile data plan for personal use.4 Given the widespread internet accessibility and the fact that few people leave home without their cellphones, it’s no wonder mobile payments are growing in popularity. Additionally, Millennials now make up 27% of the total population and Gen Z makes up 28%5, which together represents more than 10.5 million people.6 These two generations’ comfort level with technology is almost as high as their discomfort with not having their cellphones close at hand at all times! And they, among other generations, are very comfortable using their mobile devices to make payments. In fact, Canadians’ apps of choice are typically mobile banking apps and PayPal.7 In 2019, a total of 20.4% of survey respondents stated that they had the PayPal app installed on their smartphones, followed by Apple Pay with a 15.5% install rate. Consumers of all ages like mobile payment apps because they’re easy to use and convenient. Companies in the payments business should bear this in mind when they’re evaluating what it takes to keep their customers satisfied.

COVID-19 Accelerated Everything Digital

Since the pandemic, many businesses are answering the call for digital, and more specifically contactless payments methods, by incorporating new technologies into their operations. According to the Business Outlook Survey conducted by the Bank of Canada, nearly two-thirds of participating firms have plans to expand operations and boost productivity by investing in automation and digitalization. Included in these plans was improving the customer-facing component of their online business.8 Small retailers and businesses are getting on board too. A November 2020 survey found that two-thirds of small businesses now accept payments online, half of them doing so only recently.9

During COVID-19, Canadians’ spending habits changed and use of the following digital payment methods grew:

  • Card and mobile tap payments increased by 53% 
  • E-commerce platforms jumped by 38% 
  • PayPal grew by 29%
  • Credit cards went up 38%10

This doesn’t appear to be a short-term trend either. 44% of Canadians report that COVID-19 has changed their payment preferences to digital and contactless for the long term.11 The shift to digital obviously had an impact on how much they’re using traditional payment methods. 62% of Canadians reported using cash less than pre-COVID-19.12 40% of Canadians who used to be weekly users of cheques reported that they weren’t using them as often.13 ATM use was also down significantly with 61% of Canadians indicating they were using ATMs less frequently.14

Canadians Are Paying Their Bills Digitally

Bill payments make up a significant portion of the Canadian economy, constituting over 10% of all household expenditures in Canada in 2019. That’s a lot! This is why the recent shift in how Canadians pay their bills is having such a noticeable impact. For example, the number of bills paid via cheques and cash dropped 89% between 2014 and 2019.15 In 2019, the top payment instruments used for bill payments by Canadians were online banking, PADs (pre-authorized debits), and credit cards, making up over 80% of bill payments in Canada.16 Generational differences impact how consumers pay bills too. Around 45% of bills were paid with online banking, with consumers aged 35-54 being more likely to use online banking than other generations.17 Of note, Canadians aren’t that keen on automated payments. Over 60% of bill payers prefer to pay bills individually rather than setting up an automated bill pay method.18

What Does This Mean for Billers?

If you aren’t currently offering a variety of digital payment options, it’s time to do so if you want to keep up with customer expectations and behaviour. Be sure to include the ability to make seamless mobile payments and offer digital wallets, like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

KUBRA EZ-PAY provides your customers with the convenience to pay their bills securely using different digital payment channels including web, mobile, Pay-by-Text, smart speaker, and chat.  


  1. Canadian Payments: Methods and Trends, Payments Canada, 2020.
  2. Canada Could Be The First Country In The World To Go Completely Cashless, narcity, 2021
  3. Digital 2021: Canada, DATAREPORTAL, 2021.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Economic Well-Being Across Generations of Young Canadians: Are Millennials Better or Worse Off?, Statistics Canada, 2019.
  6. Gen Z Consumers Start to Shape Canadian Credit Market as They Become Increasingly Credit Active, TransUnion, 2020.
  7. Most popular mobile payments apps in Canada in 2019, Statista, January 2021.
  8.  Business Outlook Survey—Winter 2020–21, Bank of Canada.
  9. Payments innovation beyond the pandemic, Bank of Canada, February 10, 2021.
  10. COVID-19 pandemic dramatically shifts Canadians’ spending habits, Payments Canada, May 13, 2020.
  11. Canadian spending and purchase habits have not yet returned to pre-pandemic preferences, Payments Canada, 2020.
  12. COVID-19 pandemic dramatically shifts Canadians’ spending habits, Payments Canada, 2020.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. ACSS Bill Pay Stream F-Paper Bill Payments.
  16. Canadian Payments: Methods and Trends 2020, Payments Canada.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Leger/Payments Canada, 2020 Canadian Consumer Payments Behaviour Tracker.