Digital wallet users spent more than $1 billion on a record number of transactions in March as cash and physical contact were minimised in an attempt to stem the spread of COVID-19, according to data from the Commonwealth Bank.

CBA’s monthly analysis of transactions from Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay, Garmin Pay, and the bank’s own tap and pay numbers showed transactions rose 17 per cent in March compared to February, nearly triple the usual growth rate.

In March, many retailers refused to accept cash to improve store hygiene while the payments industry also allowed a temporary increase to the pin-less maximum for tap and go payments in an effort to minimise physical contact. The measures helped fuel an additional 3 million digital wallet transactions, according to the Commonwealth Bank’s data.

In total there were 36 million digital wallet transactions made last month at an average transaction of $28, resulting in over $1 billion spent. 

“The growth in the number of contactless purchases has been increasing since the introduction of Apple Pay last year, however it’s now evident that even more people regard it as a safe and secure way to pay in this environment,” said Kate Crous, executive general manager of Everyday Banking, CBA.

77 per cent of transactions were made on a debit card but credit card use still grew 21 per cent. 

While there have been positive signs this week that Australia may be flattening the coronavirus curve, Australia’s largest bank is still advising consumers to use contactless digital payments where possible.

“In the current environment, paying without cash is an important way to protect yourself and others against the spread of coronavirus,” Crous said.

“The increased contactless card limit is a fantastic step, however where possible we’re encouraging our customers to use digital wallets as they have the added safety of not needing to enter a PIN on the PIN Pad no matter how much they spend, as it instead leverages touch ID or Face ID.” 

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