04 JUL 2023

Do you take cards?


In the first half of 2023, around 41% of transactions were made in cash, showing a dogged increase in digital transactions nationwide. With over 1.8 million cards in circulation and customers increasingly looking for more efficient ways to pay, businesses have a better chance of growing if they accept digital payments.

It’s fair to say that almost 40 years ago, when MCB launched the first credit cards in Mauritius, businesses weren’t queuing up to hire the credit card imprinter required to record credit card transactions. After all, there was nothing easier than selling goods for cash, and besides perhaps refusing the odd cheque payment from unreliable or unknown clients, payment acceptance was pretty much a straightforward affair.

Requests to pay by card were so few and far between that there was barely any loss of business resulting from the non-acceptance of card payments.

That was then.

Now, 40 years later, Mauritius, with a population of 1.3 million, boasts 1.8 million cards across all banks and categories (credit cards, debit cards, prepaid cards). And while digital wallets and mobile payments (MCB Juicemy.t moneyblink by EmtelPop, etc.) are rapidly gaining ground, the volume of debit and credit card payments still exceeds by far that of payments by other digital means, telling the story that cards are here for the long run.

What this means for businesses or merchants, as they’re called in the payment landscape, is that one of the more effective ways of increasing sales goes through the acceptance of payment by debit and credit cards and other digital means. Digital payment acceptance can be done through the Point of Sale (POS) system, whether in person or online, through the MauCAS system, and now through Pay+, combining both payment rails.

The local trend, accelerated by the COVID pandemic, is clear and shows a steady increase in digital payments versus cash payments even as the lingering aftereffects of the pandemic subside. In 2019, 65% of transactions were made in cash as opposed to digital means. In the first half of 2023, that figure went down to around 41%.

A similar trend can be seen in the cash-to-POS ratio, meaning the proportion of ATM withdrawals versus direct card payments to merchants. The volume of cash withdrawn from ATMs went down by 12% in the first six months of 2023 compared to 2019, showing a marked increase in the volume of card payments to merchants.

We may well be living in uncertain times where guarantees have become a rare commodity, but it doesn’t seem to be a stretch to say that businesses that only accept payments in cash will struggle as the digital movement increases its pace worldwide.


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