Study finds cash is still the preferred way to pay in the UAE

Consumers in the United Arab Emirates still rely on cash as the preferred way to pay for goods and services in the Gulf nation, a new study shows.

The survey was released by Network International, a leading payment solutions provider in the Middle East, and showed that while credit and debit card use is on the rise in the UAE, cash payment still ranks at the top by a large margin.

The study showed UAE residents prefer to use cash for 10 out of 12 purchasing categories, paying in currency for things ranging from groceries to school fees.

Coming up second in terms of most frequently used payment methods were credit cards, followed by debit cards. The study also looked at the frequency with which consumers pay using prepaid cards, checks and online banking.

The survey found that UAE residents perceive cash as the fastest and safest way to pay for things. Emirati consumers also said cash payments allow more control over spending than using debit or credit cards.

Only one out of six residents (15 percent) use a debit card two to three times a week, the survey found, with even fewer pulling out a debit card four or more times a week. More than half of the people surveyed said they only use a debit card once or less than once a week.

UAE residents are using credit cards slightly more frequently, with 17 percent using a card two to three times a week and 16 percent using credit cards more than four times a week.

The survey also showed that Western residents use debit cards most often, with Arab expats next in line of most frequent debit users.

Bhairav Trivedi, CEO of Network International, said the results are surprising given the UAE’s standing as a regional trade hub.

“This is not a new trend, but is certainly at odds with the UAE’s adoption of new technologies and drive to be a leader on innovation,” Trivedi said. “Cash will remain important as a payment system in the UAE, but there is a huge opportunity to educate UAE consumers on the merits of alternative payment methods.”

Trivedi said that he believes that trend will change as younger generations gain more and more purchasing power in the UAE.