Canadian crypto adoption struggles as cash remains king

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Less than 3% of Canadians have used Bitcoin (BTC) or other cryptocurrencies for day-to-day payments for two consecutive years.

A yearly Bank of Canada survey revealed the nation’s long-standing affinity toward cash and bank cards for making payments in 2022 and 2023. However, the use of these payment alternatives has generally increased over the past decade.

Cash and cards dominance in Canada

Of the many other alternatives to cash and cards, most Canadian respondents preferred using e-transfer, a method of transferring money using email addresses or phone numbers.

Adoption of alternatives to cash and cards in Canada. Source: Bank of Canada

Cryptocurrencies, on the other hand, remain the least favored method of payment in Canada. In 2022, 2.2% of respondents used cryptocurrencies for payments, which grew to 2.5% in 2023, as shown in the graph above.

Reluctance to embrace a cashless future

The primary reason for the slow adoption of cryptocurrency in Canada is the widespread reluctance to go cashless. Over 80% of respondents indicated that they have no “plans to stop using cash in the future,” a consistent trend since 2019.

Canada’s plans to go cashless. Source: Bank of Canada

Despite crypto adoption stagnating, the Bitcoin (BTC) ATM ecosystem continues to thrive in Canada. The country hosts the second-largest network of crypto ATMs globally after the United States.

As shown below, Canada is home to 2,941 (7.7%) active Bitcoin ATMs.

Chart showing the distribution of crypto ATMs installed in various countries and continents. Source: Coin ATM Radar

Related: Retail crypto market growth in Canada driven by market factors, regulation

On the flip side, the Bank of Canada continues to further efforts toward financial innovation. The central bank recently inaugurated a new innovation hub in collaboration with the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), named BIS Toronto Innovation Centre.

Financial innovation for Canada

The announcement highlighted that the new hub will work in Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem said that the partnership is important to fostering innovation in the region, adding:

“As the financial sector continues to evolve, we need to innovate in different areas and apply skills that aren’t traditionally associated with central banking. By doing so, Canadians can share in the benefits of innovation.”

The hub will focus on three of BIS’ six priority themes, which includes open finance, next-generation financial market infrastructures and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).

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