MasterCard is at war in Canada, and it’s not against who you’d expect

As ex advisor to Ronald Reagan, Martin Armstrong, says: The current goal for major institutions and governments is to eliminate cash. This is how you keep bankruns from happening, plus you’re able to track down every single transaction. It’s an all-out assault on your freedom.


TORONTO — In Canada, the biggest rival MasterCard Inc. is working to obliterate, according to its local president Brian Lang, isn’t Visa Inc., American Express Co., Interac Association or Bitcoin dealers. It’s cold, hard cash.

“The benefit of Interac and Visa for me is that we’re competing towards the same goal of a digitally enabled country,” Lang said in a recent telephone interview. “I actually appreciate that (Interac) is advertising right now not to pay with cash and that there’s a much better way, that you can tap or pop in your card.”

Bills and coins, he says, are heavy, dirty and leave no ineluctable trace as they change hands. “Blunt tools,” he calls them. And yet, for all its warts and despite a concerted push for digitization, cash remains the most popular payment method, especially for cheaper-priced items under $10 at the corner store or coffee shop.

In the latest methods-of-payments survey, the Bank of Canada noted a 10-percentage-point decrease in the number of transactions paid by cash to 44 per cent in 2013 compared to 2009, a figure that is seen to have continued falling even further during the past two years. Conversely, credit card usage also jumped more than 10 per cent, with contactless payments growing to 19.3 per cent in 2013 from just five per cent in 2009.

According to the survey, a median $300 in cash is stashed for when cards aren’t accepted, when extra fees are slapped on low-value sales, during an electricity or network outage, or if there’s ever a run on our banks. (The Financial Times noted recently that global banknote production is rising five per cent a year, amid economic instability.)

The data show the low-priced category is a tough nut for credit to crack, with cash making up more than 60 per cent of sales worth less than $15 in 2013 and under half for those between $15 and $25. It is no wonder since three-fourths of people surveyed are holdings $5 and $10 bills in their wallets.

But that, too, is changing, as technology allows credit and debit cards to mimic what makes cash great.

In MasterCard’s Canadian network, contactless payments have almost doubled to one in four in-store sales by consumers in June, 2015, from 13 per cent in June, 2013. During its last nine quarters, MasterCard has seen its card count in Canada fluctuate between 49 and 56 million, less than five per cent of its total. Lang thinks he can use technology to persuade users to rack up bigger bills and fees in the next year or so.

“Over the next 12 to 18 months, we’re going to see a fairly significant move towards digitization,” he said.

Full article: MasterCard is at war in Canada, and it’s not against who you’d expect (Financial Post)

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