Cash demand surged in Canada

Jul 28, 2020

Canadians have been turning to cash following the coronavirus outbreak, highlighting the fact that cash is the most trusted means of payment.

According to the Bank of Canada’s latest publication, notes in circulation have “increased significantly in March and April 2020 compared with the same two months in the previous five years.” The findings follow reports that Americans are finding comfort in cash, Mexico’s cash withdrawals have soared, and Europe has seen “the biggest jump in the amount of cash in circulation in the eurozone” since October 2008 due to the covid-19 crisis.

Notes in circulation by year, The Bank of Canada (2020)

Canadians “did not change their cash use in response to covid-19” and 74% of Canadians report that they have no plans to go cashless in the next 5 years. While behaviour has changed, with 17% of respondents indicating they wash their hands before and after using cash, the campaigns against cash during covid-19, spreading fake news about cash and exploiting diffuse fears, obviously had no lasting impact in Canada.

Canadians’ cash on hand and other cash holdings, The Bank of Canada (2020)

Instead, the report demonstrates the resilience of cash, as CTV news writer Meredith MacLeod outlines:

“The benefits of cash are clear. It’s simple, accessible, steady in value and almost universally accepted. It’s anonymous, doesn’t leave a trail, can’t be hacked, doesn’t rack up transaction fees, and is usable even when the lights go out or the internet shuts down.”
"Meredith MacLeodJournalistCTV News

Excerpts from the report:

Canadians who hold cash report having $85 in cash on hand (median), compared with $70 in the 2019 CAS. This represents a modest increase in cash holdings during the pandemic. (p.7)

A majority of Canadians (64 percent) report that they did not change their cash use in response to COVID-19, but 35 percent said their use of cash decreased (Table 3). Note also that 30 percent of survey respondents report that they do not use cash at all. We find, however, that a significant proportion of these respondents had cash on hand. Adjusting for this provides an estimate of 14 percent of respondents who do not use cash (indicated by the parentheses in Table 3). Only 13 percent were not concerned about reports that viruses could be transmitted by bank notes. Notably, we find that 17 percent reported taking precautions while using cash, such as washing their hands after making a purchase. Of the 36 percent who reported a change in their behaviour, 35 percent reported that they decreased their use of cash. (p. 9)

Download the report here

Last Updated: Jan 17, 2024