Use of cash continues to decline
anadians continue to increase their use of credit and debit cards to make both large and small payments, according to a 2019 study by the Bank of Canada. In the past ten years, cash transactions of all kinds have declined from more than half of all payments to just more than a third of all transactions.
The Bank of Canada is Canada’s central bank, and sole issuer of Canadian bank notes, The Bank of Canada surveys Canadians every four years to find out how the nation pays for things.
The declining use of cash is not unique to Canada. Other countries worldwide are also seeing a rise in the use of electronic means of making payments large and small. Cash, however, remains easy to use. Cash is seen as secure, and cash is nearly universally accepted in Canada. For small-value purchases like a cup of coffee or a snack, cash is a popular payment method. In general, worldwide, the lower the value of the transaction, the more likely the buyer and seller will exchange value with cash.
Implications for immigrants to Canada
Cash, however, comes with some serious drawbacks. Using cash doesn’t build your credit rating, which you absolutely need to borrow money, qualify for a mortgage, or get a credit card. While cash itself is secure in that Canadians recognize the look and feel of Canadian currency, which is very difficult to counterfeit, carrying large amounts of cash has always been risky. Cash is not a good way for an employer to pay wages, or for an employee to be paid for work. Employers need to deduct income taxes; Canada Pension Plan contributions; health care premiums and other essentials ‘at source,’ which means you pay them as you go, rather than trying to find money you may have spent when you file your income taxes in Canada each spring.
Workers paid in cash may find out the hard way that they have no record if they need to claim workers’ compensation for a work-related injury.
Many of our clients prefer to pay us in cash. That’s fine. We accept cash. There is no advantage or drawback to you in paying us in cash. We also accept an e-transfer or a cheque.
Tips for good Canadian money management
In your country of origin:
- Have a bank account. Use it, and deposit your cash in your bank account;
- Build your credit history by showing that you can responsibly use a credit card, and pay the balance in full each month, or that you can manage a debit card;
- You’ll need to show you have liquid assets (securities or cash) to come to Canada. Set up a savings account, separate from your chequing account, where you can save money.
Once you land in Canada:
- Move your banking to Canada. Open a bank account with one of the major Canadian banks. Your employer should directly deposit your wages in your main chequing account;
- Open a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA), and use this registered account to save and invest your money tax-free. You can withdraw and re-contribute the money you have in this account as your circumstances change over the years;
- Open a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), and make annual contributions of whatever you can. This account accumulates income tax-free until you use the funds, ideally after you have retired. Plan never to use this money during your working career;
- Get and use either (or both of) a debit and a credit card for your purchases. You gain an expense record of what you spend money on, which helps you set and manage a personal budget;
- Pay your income taxes every year. Filing your income tax return automatically makes you eligible for a wide variety of federal and provincial supports and programs.
Retain and file your financial records. Pay regular attention to how you and your household use money. Canadians generate a formidable trail of payments for the things you must purchase (rent or mortgage; utilities; taxes; transportation; food; clothing and so on) and the discretionary things you spend money on (entertainment, eating out, gifts; etc.). Financial success in a country like Canada is a matter of both increasing your income during your working career, and understanding and managing how you spend money. Keep score, have a plan, you’ll know whether you are winning or losing in the game of life in Canada.
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