BUSINESS

Rise in card transactions slows as SMEs prefer cash

EVGENIA TZORTZI

TAGS: Economy

While the vast majority of Greek professionals may have installed card terminals for their business transactions, as obliged by law, many refrain from using them, opting instead for cash transactions.

Data from banks show that after two years of explosive growth the rise in plastic money transactions slowed down considerably in the first quarter of the year. The value of credit and debit card transactions increased at an annual rate of 20 percent in the January-March period, against 45 percent in the same period last year and 70 percent in the same quarter in 2016, a few months after Alexis Tsipras’s government introduced the capital controls.

Figures also show that the growth rate of card transactions halved to between 40 and 45 percent in the year’s first quarter compared to 93 percent in 2017.

This trend has arisen in spite of the compulsory installation of card terminals at all retail and wholesale points and for all professional groups, with the number of terminals installed put at more than 650,000. The slowdown is attributed to the fact that the market is returning to more realistic growth rates as well as to the increase in tax evasion, due in large part to the painfully high taxation in the country: There are quite a few enterprises – particularly small and medium-sized businesses – that give their customers discounts if they pay in cash instead of with cards; this is an evolution of the old practice of not issuing a receipt.

This trend is confirmed by recent data released by Cardlink, which show that 35 percent of card terminals installed in 2017 have yet to perform a single transaction. While the card terminals installed during the first phase of the compulsory installation accounted for 40 percent of the total number of appliances connected online with the banks, they only accounted for 6 percent of transactions.

Bank officials estimate that card transaction turnover in the market will reach 27 billion euros this year, from 23.5 billion in 2017.

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