About 40 percent of Japanese consumers started to use cashless payments more frequently after the government’s introduction of a point reward program for such payments, an industry ministry survey showed Friday.

The survey about the point reward program, introduced in October to alleviate negative effects from the consumption tax hike in the same month, also showed that over 30 percent of responding consumers became more inclined to shop at retail outlets covered by the program.

The share of cashless purchases in the sales of covered outlets grew to some 34 percent from about 27 percent before they joined the program.

But fewer than 40 percent of responding outlets said the program helped them win more customers or make more sales, suggesting that businesses have not necessarily enjoyed benefits.

Some 990,000 stores across the country applied to join the program, of which some 950,000 stores have completed registration.

The survey, covering some 27,000 consumers and some 7,000 businesses, was conducted in two stages between the end of August and early December.