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LIFE IN SPAIN

Is Spain going cashless?

Card payments are on the rise in Spain, but many Spaniards still use cash in their day-to-day life. Scandinavian countries are heading in the digital direction, but could Spain ever go cashless?

Is Spain going cashless?
Photo: Pixabay.

¿Con tarjeta? is something you asked a lot in Spanish shops and bars, and according to recent statistics, it’s on the up.

Card payments increased by 23.56 percent in Spain during the second quarter of 2022, according to data from the Bank of Spain.

Card payment transactions have been steadily rising in Spain since the start of COVID-19 pandemic because physical money – especially coins – were considered unsanitary.

This is part of the reason why both the rise in the number of card transactions (23.56 percent) and in the amount paid for on card (25.05 percent) have reached record highs.

The number of cards in circulation has also risen by 1.44 percent to 87.9 million, meaning there are almost double the amount of bank cards than there are people in Spain.

In perhaps what might allude to the current cost of living crisis, credit cards have increased by 7.1 percent, and debit cards fallen by 2.95 percent. 

Cash withdrawals also increased by 2.37 percent in the second quarter, with 170.8 million ATM withdrawals across Spain.

Still, that figure is far lower than the pre-pandemic figure, when a staggering 900 million cash withdrawal operations were registered in 2019.

Despite the underlying trend towards digital payment, experts believe the shock of inflation and cost of living crisis could cause a short-term uptick in cash payments in Spain as a means of controlling spending.

According to Helena Tejero, a Director from Banco de España, using cash is “a good way to keep the money that comes out of the wallet at bay” and it could become more common as Spaniards tighten their belts in the face of inflation.

READ ALSO: How Spain’s cost of living increase is worse than in France and Germany

Cash only

Card payments may be on the rise, but for many Spaniards cash is still a daily part of their lives.

According to Banco de España, 64 percent of purchases in Spain are paid for in cash.

Around 1 million people in Spain are, according to a Study of Consumer Payment Attitudes in the EuroZone, living in “financial exclusion” where they can only access cash.

This is most common in rural Spain where many villages and hamlets.

The number of ATMs in Spain has also been falling since 2008. According to the Banco de España, there are now 58.4 percent fewer cash points than in 2008, although Spain is still the country with the second highest proportion of ATMs per person in the EuroZone, with 58 cash points for every 100,000 inhabitants.

READ ALSO: Spanish banks’ ATMs are disappearing or being replaced

Cashless future?

Though card payments are rising in Spain, it is still a long way off countries such as Sweden and Norway, which are all but cash-free societies.

READ ALSO: Reader’s story: How I adapted to Sweden’s cashless society

In Sweden card payments (whether its card or mobile phone) make up more than 90 percent of all transactions in the Scandinavian countries. Next-door in Norway, just 3 percent of purchases are made with cash.

Financial experts point to some of the benefits of transitioning to a cashless society, including a reduction in crime as there is physically less money to steal, but also the creation of a more robust and far-reaching digital paper trail, which makes financial crimes such as money laundering more difficult.

On the other hand, many people feel moving away from cash comes with its downsides. For many bank cards and online banking is a steep technological learning curve, it leaves you with no other option in the case of technical issues and, as the Banco de España suggested, for some people the lack of physical cash can make controlling spending more difficult. 

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MONEY

Black Friday in Spain: What you should be aware of

Here's what you need to know about the Black Friday sales in Spain in 2022, from when they start to which retailers are offering discounts and why the sales aren't always as good as they're made out to be.

Black Friday in Spain: What you should be aware of

Black Friday is the day when some of Spain’s biggest retailers hold huge sales and give massive discounts (or so they claim) in the run-up to the start of the Christmas shopping season.

The tradition originated in the US as it was held the day after Thanksgiving.

READ ALSO: Where Americans can celebrate Thanksgiving

While Spain doesn’t generally celebrate the American Thanksgiving holiday, it does however go in for Black Friday in a big way, along with many other countries around the world.

Spain began getting in on the Black Friday action in 2011 when the regulations on promotions and sales changed.

When is Black Friday?

This year, Black Friday will be held on Friday November 25th, but many companies and online retailers decide to hold sales throughout the month or even extend them for a whole week instead of just one day.

For example, tech store MediaMarkt began giving discounts on November 1st and will continue its sales until November 30th, while Mr. Wonderful began its discounts early too on November 18th.

Inditex group (which includes clothes stores Zara, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Oysho and Stradivarious) will publish their discounts online on Thursday November 24th.

Many stores will also extend their offers until Monday November 28th, which has become known as Cyber Monday. On this day, more tech companies and online retailers will be offering discounts too.

What will there be discounts on?

There will be Black Friday sales in Spain on everything from fashion and beauty to sports equipment, homeware and technology, among others.

Businesses are also allowing the return periods to be extended until January 6th 2023 or even into February, so that people can start their Christmas shopping early.

Spanish stores such as Mango, Zara and El Corte Inglés will all be having sales, as well as international and online retailers such as Amazon and Primark.

Swedish furniture giant Ikea will be doing something a little different this year, having a Green Friday where they’ll buy back some of your old furniture. 

According to a study by online marketing company Webloyalty, it is expected that online spending will grow by 25 percent compared to 2021, despite the rise in the cost of living and the financial squeeze many are experiencing.

Are Black Friday sales in Spain really that good?

Research conducted by Spanish consumer watchdog OCU over the past seven years has proven that many shops put the prices of their products up before Black Friday, so that the discounts they then apply aren’t really bargains for shoppers, but businesses get to capitalise on the shopping frenzy. 

In 2021, OCU spent 30 days writing down prices for almost 17,000 products in 52 stores. Almost a third of them rose in price (32.5 percent of the products), 11.8 percent of which cost less in the week of Black Friday. Overall, an average price rise of 3.3 percent was calculated.

There’s even a Twitter hastag #timofertasBF ( abit like ‘ripofferBF’) where user post the products that claim to be on discount but really aren’t.

Therefore, when it comes to big purchases in particular, make sure that you’re familiar with the average price of the product before Black Friday by comparing prices online. That should help you to ascertain whether you’re actually getting a good offer. 

If it’s a top-of-the-range product that’s just been released, don’t expect it to be on sale, and if it is, you should be suspicious.

Watch out for Black Friday scams

Be aware that while Black Friday can mean some great bargains, it’s also a day that brings out scammers and people who are waiting to steal your personal details.

In the past, there have been situations where second-hand items never arrive, the setup of fake online stores and discounts that contain malware.

You should particularly look out for phishing scams, where people try to steal your identity or personal details and fraudulent text messages.

Experts agree that there are several ways to protect yourself against potential Black Friday fraudsters including avoiding suspicious links or online shops you’re not aware of, using only official websites, creating strong passwords, not trusting any discounts that seem way too good to be true and using online security software.

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