Business

Nearly 20% of Japan households using e-money but cash still king

Reuters

Almost a fifth of households use electronic money for small purchases, a survey by a central bank-affiliated research institute shows, up from a year ago and a sign the culture of cash-hoarding is changing.

In the survey conducted between June and July, 18.5 percent of households said they use electronic money, such as smartphone apps and debit card payments, on shopping trips where ¥1,000 or less is spent, up from 15.4 percent in the previous year.

Among single-person households — 43 percent of whom are in their 20s and 30s — the ratio was much higher at 35.6 percent, suggesting government efforts to prod people to go cashless may be paying off, at least among the younger generation.

Despite the growth in electronic payments, the “cash is king” mentality remains entrenched, with the survey showing 84 percent still use paper money and coins for small purchases.

And for payments exceeding ¥10,000 and up to ¥50,000, 48.5 percent of households said they pay by cash and 3.4 percent by electronic money.

A low crime rate, years of ultralow interest rates and a nationwide network of ATMs have long made cash appealing in Japan, giving people few reasons to shift to cashless payments.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to make more people switch to cashless payments to allow stores to automate sales estimates and banks to cut back on costly ATMs.

Shoppers have recently been encouraged to ditch cash for e-money after the government introduced a rebate program to ease the pain of the October increase in the consumption tax.