MBA campaign urges consumers to use less cash, fewer cheques
Despite a substantial increase in card usage and online payment methods in recent years, the Maltese are still inclined to use cash and cheques, according to figures compiled by the Central Bank of Malta.
Card users effected 13.8 million transactions last year, up 116 per cent from the 6.4 million transactions in 2006. But there are still just under 10 million cheques doing the rounds every year.
Cheques, which involve considerable costs for reconciliation and processing, decreased gradually over six years from the 12.54 million issued in 2006 to last year’s 9.75 million.
Now, in a bid to spur a culture change towards efficiency, the Malta Bankers Association, in collaboration with the Central Bank and the Malta Association of Credit Management, has embarked on an educational campaign to encourage people to step up their use of cards and online payment methods.
The campaign, which is supported by Malta’s retail banks and runs till the end of November, will see banking officials make appearances on TV shows, while announcements will be made in print, online, on radio, billboards and bus stops.
MBA officials say the first target audience is the wider public.
The campaign will enter a second, business-to-business phase that aims to raise awareness of more efficient transaction and payment options among the commercial community.
“The aim is to communicate the message that, like all other businesses, the banks are pushing for more efficiency to serve their customers better,” MBA secretary-general James Bonello told The Times Business.
“There are more efficient payment methods which should be used widely and we should see fewer payments involving cash and cheques. As a society we are seeing some positive changes. We still lag behind the northern European country trends where technology use is heightened and cheques are practically non-existent. We share the same habits as southern Europeans.”
Maltese customers have become more tech-savvy and, importantly, more trusting of payment gateways and online credit transfer facilities.
Central Bank records show there was an increase in credit transfers to 6.9 million last year from four million in 2006. On-street and retail facilities have seen considerable consolidation with 195 automated teller machines across the country (2006: 156); 76 ATMs have a credit transfer function. Merchants now make use of more than 12,400 points of sale, an increase of 50 per cent from 2006.
Herman Ciappara, the Central Bank’s head of payments and banking, added the momentum of the cash-less trend was expected to grow.
“But there are still thousands of payments which could be effected much more easily and there are still people queuing to be seen to by tellers in branches,” Mr Ciappara pointed out
“The Central Bank is the regul-ator of the payments system, and its primary aim is to see there is more efficiency in the system.
“The bank’s mandate is to ensure that the country has efficient payment systems and uses efficient payment instruments. We are trying to push progress by assuring consumers that these methods are safe and efficient. Technology has given us the means to be more efficient.”