Some merchants clinging to cash-only policies even as new tech sways B.C.

Nearly half of B.C. residents prefer contactless payments, according to a May survey from Moneris | Photo: Shutterstock

It wasn’t too long ago when business owners looking to “fly under the radar” would only accept cash at their stores, recalls Rob Cameron.

Canadians counting on paying with either a debit or credit card would be expected to hit up an ATM or keep searching until they came across a card-friendly retailer that shelved the desired item.

“You could get away with that in the past,” said Cameron, the chief product and marketing officer at Toronto-based payments processor Moneris.

“Too many (consumers now) prefer to pay with something plastic.”

A May survey from Moneris found nearly half (48%) of Canadians have left a store that didn’t accept debit or credit cards when they found themselves short on cash.

That rate jumps to 59% for consumers under 45 years old.

And British Columbians have been especially quick to adopt new technologies.

The survey found 49% of West Coast residents preferred using contactless payments such as smartphones equipped with near-field communication (NFC) or tap-and-go credit and debit cards.

That’s the highest proportion in Canada, Cameron said.

Although he couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason why B.C. has been so quick to adopt new payment technologies, an April report from Moneris found first-quarter spending in the province was up 8.9% compared with the same period a year prior.

Spending was up 5.9% nationwide during the first quarter.

Meanwhile, BMO released a forecast last week predicting B.C. would lead the country in economic growth in 2015 and 2016.

So merchants on the West Coast will likely be competing with each other for people’s disposable income to a higher degree than in Alberta, which has seen its economy sink with the decline of oil prices.

And Cameron said increased competition will sink merchants trying to live in a bygone era when cash was king.

“You need to be ready to accept whatever tender type a person wants to pay with because the cost to your business of them walking out of your store is higher than the cost of acceptance,” he said.

The online survey tallied results from about 1,500 respondents across Canada and was conducted the week of April 13.