Electronic payments in Saudi Arabia exceeded cash for first time in 2021: SAMA study

For the first time in Saudi Arabia, cash is no longer the most used method of payment by individuals, as electronic payments by individuals have grown significantly to reach 57 percent in 2021 of the total number of transactions executed, compared to just 36 percent in 2019.

This was revealed on Sunday in a report by the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) based on the findings of an extensive study conducted to measure user payment methods in the Kingdom during 2021, with the aimed of assessing consumer payment habits (cash and non-cash), across all market sectors — individuals, businesses, and the government sector.

The study showed that, across all user groups, the use of electronic payments exceeded the use of cash. The extensive study by SAMA covered the use of payment methods across the market, and gives detailed insights into the most used instruments, by whom and for which purchases.

In total, across all areas of economic activities, the use of electronic payments increased from 44 percent in 2019 to 62 percent of all payments by volume in 2021. These transactions represent 94 percent of all payments when measured by value.

In the business sector, the share of electronic payments reached a substantial 84 percent of all business payments in 2021, comparing to 51 percent in 2019 (a growth of 65 percent over the two years).

On the other hand, the study also revealed that the government sector has almost completely converted to electronic payment methods of all outward government payments to individuals, business establishments or other government agencies.

Vision 2030

A key objective of the Financial Sector Development Program –- under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 –- is the promotion of digital payment solutions to transform the Kingdom into a less-cash society by reaching 70 percent non-cash payments by 2025.

The Saudi Central Bank, through its main role in the financial sector development program, seeks to encourage use of the fastest and most efficient electronic payment methods, as an extension of SAMA’s efforts in the development of the national and international payments ecosystems, including new technical and operational infrastructure, regulatory and legislative adjustments, and new payment services.

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