Cards Are King: A Majority of Canadians Are Now Card First Buyers

Mar 27, 2018

New study reveals small businesses are missing out on sales by not accepting cards

Seller Tori Blush

Toronto, ON - March 27, 2018 - A national study, commissioned by payments and point-of-sale company Square, reveals 79% of Canadians are now 'card-first' buyers who typically try to pay with a debit or credit card first when making purchases. A further two in five Canadians (41%) describe themselves as 'card-only' buyers who never use cash to pay for their purchases. In fact, three out of four Canadians (75%) are carrying less cash than in the past with an average of $46.50 in their wallets right now and admit they haven’t visited a bank or ATM to withdraw cash in more than two weeks (17 days to be exact).

The way Canadians prefer to pay affects where they choose to buy, with over two-thirds of Canadians (69%) saying they would be more likely to buy from a local business if they can pay by card. This will come as a surprise to the vast majority of cash- and/or cheque-only small businesses (85%), which don’t think they’re missing out on sales by not accepting cards. The disconnect between buyers’ clear preference for paying by card and a business’s traditional cash- and cheque-only ethos indicates businesses need to rethink how they let buyers pay as there is a significant cost to not accepting cards.

'Buyers’ attitudes towards payments have changed and so too should local businesses’,' said Cathy Vigrass, Head of Canada, Square. 'To remain competitive, no business, large or small, can afford to miss out on sales. Square levels the playing field for local businesses by making it easy and affordable to accept the way Canadians prefer to pay.'

Here are some of the standout study findings:

  • While 88% of cash- and/or cheque-only small businesses believe people are carrying less cash today than a few years ago, only 11% believe cards are their buyers’ most preferred way to pay.
  • Two-thirds of Canadians (67%) think cash- and/or cheque-only businesses are old-fashioned, a further almost half (47%) avoid them and an equal portion (47%) haven’t made a purchase because they weren’t able to pay by card.
  • Only 40% of cash- and/or cheque-only businesses wonder if they’re inconveniencing their customers by not accepting cards, while the majority (64%) of Canadians are frustrated when wanting to pay by card but have to pay with cash.
  • The overwhelming majority of card-accepting small businesses (89%) started taking card payments to allow customers to pay how they want and a further more than two-thirds (68%) were motivated to increase their potential sales.
  • While the majority of small businesses (74%) believe they will always accept cash, nearly a quarter (22%) are intrigued by the idea of not accepting cash at all.

A report by Canada’s central bank indicates while nearly all large businesses accept cards, only two-thirds of small or medium-size businesses (SMBs) do. In the same report, it is noted that SMBs that offer food have the highest acceptance of cards. Some local fast-casual restaurant leaders across the country are showing Canadian consumers and businesses across industries that cashless sales could be the future.

'We first thought about operating cashless six months ago, when a series of break-ins accelerated our decision,' said Square seller Barbora Samieian, owner of salad shop Field & Social in Vancouver. 'Going cashless wasn’t a huge transition for us as more than 90% of our customers preferred paying by card. The response has been overwhelmingly positive from both our customers and staff, with many saying they also see it as the way of the future.'

*This study, conducted by Leger, was composed of an omnibus survey with consumers and a phone survey with small businesses. The online omnibus survey of 1,566 Canadians was completed between 5 and 8 March 2018, using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb. The margin of error for this study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20. Telephone interviews with 316 Canadian small business (30 or fewer employees) owners and employees that at least sometimes accept customer payments in person and have influence on what forms of payment to accept from customers were completed between 7 and 22 March 2018. The margin of error for this study was +/-5.5%, 19 times out of 20.

About Square
Square creates tools that help sellers of all sizes start, run and grow their businesses. Square enables sellers to accept card payments and also provides reporting and analytics, invoicing and next-day settlement. Square’s point-of-sale software helps sellers manage inventory, locations and employees and grow sales. Square was founded in 2009 and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Ireland and the UK. Square operates in Canada through its wholly owned subsidiary, Square Canada Inc. More information is available at

Media Contact:
Square Canada, Inc.