The Cashless World – Evolving Payment Environments in Key Asia Pacific and Western Markets

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The depth of internet connectivity and smartphone penetration in many markets means it can be very easy to drive the adoption of cashless payments, but the path to moving away from cash has become very different between markets. Cashless payments in most developed markets are still focused on payment cards, while in a lot of developing markets consumers are leapfrogging from cash to mobile payments. Compared to when payment cards were first introduced, the options for cashless payments and the situation of each market are so different that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach. In some markets, the move to drive consumers to reduce the use of cash has reached a bottleneck.

This report explores the cashless payment environments in the key Asia Pacific and Western markets. It also considers how payment cards and mobile payments are faring in both regions as well as how trends will develop in the future.

What is the impact of cashless payments in the Asia Pacific?

Consumers in the Asia Pacific are leapfrogging from cash to mobile payments, bypassing the use of payment cards. But while there have been developments on the road to cashless payments in the Asia Pacific in recent years, advancement differs greatly between markets. In some markets, consumers still have a strong preference for cash, while in other consumers are accustomed to non-cash payments. In most other cases, the cashless payment journey is limited by aspects of the payment environment, such as the lack of proper digital payment infrastructure or the lack of internet connectivity. In the Asia Pacific, two markets that stand out in terms of their cash usage patterns are Japan and China. Japan has long been perceived as technologically advanced, but its consumers still display a strong preference for cash. Meanwhile, the introduction of the Alipay mobile wallet in China saw a dramatic shift in consumers from cash to mobile payments.

Cashless payments in the Asia Pacific, by markets

Cashless payments in the Asia Pacific, by markets

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What is the impact of cashless payments in the Western economies?

For most developed Western economies, the cashless payment environment has been in place for a few decades now. Yet even in this region, adoption varies significantly between countries. Once again, this means a one-size-fits-all strategy is not viable. Consumers in the US have been accustomed to using payment cards for decades, and the development of broadband, eCommerce, and mobile commerce means they are comfortable using payment cards both in-store and online. Sweden’s affordable and widely available financial products, the strong presence of alternative payment methods, and the consumer preference for electronic payments have driven the country to become a less cash-dependent society than many of its peers.

Cashless payments in the Western Economies, by markets

Cashless payments in the Western Economies, by markets

For more market insights, download a free report sample

Market Report Scope

Key markets in the Asia Pacific Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan
Key markets in the Western economies The US, The UK, and Sweden


  • In markets where there is a large financially underserved segment, mobile wallets have proved an efficient way of providing access to banking and payment facilities.
  • In such markets, internet infrastructure is crucial to ensuring financial inclusion for this segment of society, which in turn will increase the cashless payment rate in the market.
  • Markets with smaller populations can learn from the cashless progression of countries like Sweden and adopt some of the steps they have taken. Linking up a national ID, bank account, and mobile phone number as part of a mobile payment system is a smart and efficient way of implementing a wider national cashless payment system.

Reasons to Buy

  • Understand the cashless payment journey in different regions
  • Learn how the cashless payment environment differs between markets in the Asia Pacific and the West
  • Discover how the cashless payment situation will evolve in the near future.

American Express
WeChat Pay
Apple Pay
Google Pay

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

1.1 Market overview

1.2 Key findings

1.3 Critical success factors

2. The Cashless Environment in Asia Pacific

2.1 The current situation in Asia Pacific

2.2 Japan

2.3 China

2.4 Australia and New Zealand

2.5 South Korea

2.6 Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan

2.7 The rest of Asia Pacific

3. The Cashless Environment in Western Economies

3.1 US

3.2 UK

3.3 Sweden

4. Future Implications

5. Appendix

5.1 Abbreviation and acronyms

5.2 Methodology

5.3 Secondary sources

5.4 Further reading

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List of Tables

Table 1: ATMs per million inhabitants compared to population density, 2020


List of Figures

Figure 1: Japan is one of the most cash-heavy markets in Asia Pacific

Figure 2: Cash usage proportions fall when considering transaction value

Figure 3: In Japan, cash gifts are typically offered in elaborately decorated envelopes

Figure 4: Cash remains the preferred payment instrument in Japan

Figure 5: Alipay and WeChat Pay are widely accepted in China

Figure 6: Alipay and WeChat Pay are super apps rather than just mobile wallets

Figure 7: Adoption of mobile payments has penetrated all levels of society

Figure 8: In China, mobile payments exploded in popularity from 2013 to 2020

Figure 9: Singapore’s government consolidated all mobile wallets available in the market under the SGQR banner

Figure 10: A host of mobile wallet brands are available in Asia Pacific

Figure 11: Cash transaction volume is falling in the US, albeit at a slow pace

Figure 12: The UK’s first credit card

Figure 13: In the UK, the transition to cashless payments has been smooth

Figure 14: Cash is still an important payment tool even in a less cash-dependent society like Sweden

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