Russia steering away from cash faster than expected, SberIndex and OFD Platform find out

Oct 15, 2020

Consumers are reluctant to deal with cash unless necessary, mainly because of the coronavirus-related risks, said analysts from SberIndex and the IT company OFD Platform in a joint study on the evolution of cashless payments in Russia.

In 3Q20, the proportion of cashless transactions in consumer spending reached 53.6%, which is unusually high and is against the seasonal pattern for a second quarter in a row. However, SberIndex analysts believe the reason behind this change is clear: people are reluctant to use banknotes when there’s a cashless option because, as the latest studies suggest, COVID-19 may stay on paper banknotes for up to four weeks.

Amid that, cashless sales surpassed the 60% mark in as many as seven regions of Russia, which is an all-time high. Ranking first is the Republic of Karelia (62.7% of purchases with cards). It’s closely followed by Murmansk Region and the Republic of Komi (62.5% and 62.0% respectively). Some more regions are close to the 60% milestone and should pass it as soon as in 1Q21, SberIndex analysts expect.

Cashless payments are growing as fast as in 3Q19 reaching 4.9 pp as card payment options keep growing. The Republic of Khakassia and Sakha stand out with an increase of 10.3 pp and 9.3 pp, respectively.

Fourteen most ‘cashless’ cities saw over 60% of purchases being made with cards. Top performers are Petrozavodsk (63.7%), Apatity (63.7%), and Syktyvkar (63.5%). Unprecedented growth from 3Q19 was spotted in Abakan (+13.3 pp).

In the last quarter, the share of non-cash payments, which relied on the analysis of OFD Platform’s fiscal receipts, turned out to be much higher than the result based on Sberbank data (59.7% versus 53.4%). The analysts hypothesized that that was a result of the gray economy growing bigger during the lockdown. Now that the restrictions have been lifted, the estimates of the share of non-cash payments are converging again. The stricter restrictive measures at the end of September have not had time to affect the overall picture of the third quarter but may become an important factor in the fourth quarter.

The biggest consumer segments – Corner Shops, Hypermarkets, and Supermarkets – saw the proportion of cashless spending decline by 1.7, 2.2, and 3.1 pp, respectively, as compared to the pandemic-laden quarter. The metric plummeted in the Clothing category, but this is mainly due to offline retailers reopening their doors.

The opposite trend is seen in food services where the share of cashless settlements grew further from its 2Q highs. Having faced large-scale shutdowns, the industry is more sensitive to customer needs for convenient payment options. Online orders, with their traditionally high share of non-cash payments, have contributed heavily. It should also be taken into account that in the current economic situation there are more prepared players operating legally and having official payment terminals.

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When publishing the materials, a reference to SberIndex ( is mandatory. is an analytical website by Sberbank that illustrates how life in Russia has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, you can find three key indexes on the website, all of them based on anonymized data. These are an incidence model, the consumer activity index, and consumer activity changes. The all-new Business section features the evolution of gross payroll and change in small business activity. The website also has other studies, including all SberIndex lab ones (former SberData).

IT company Platform OFD is an operator of fiscal data, digital document management, and electronic reporting. Every day the company processes over 44 mln sales receipts coming from one million online registers in Russia and sends this data to the Federal Tax Service of Russia and the Center for Research in Perspective Technologies. A Sber ecosystem company, it ranks first among fiscal data operators, according to CNews Analytics.