Recent developments of consumption in Switzerland

September 1, 2020 (auch auf Deutsch)

Overall payment card transactions: Volume just matches the beginning of the year

Graph 1. Transaction Volume (in M CHF) per week by payment cards in the year 2020
  • During the past 4 weeks (July 30 – August 26), the total volume of payments by credit card together with debit card payments and cash withdrawals amounted to 1’965 M CHF per week. The total card transaction volume thus matches the pre-COVID-19 level[1] (1,963 M CHF per week).
  • Payments by debit cards at point-of-sale (PoS) reached 789 M CHF per week during the past 4 weeks and are therefore 14% above the pre-COVID-19 level (694 M CHF per week).
  • Cash withdrawals by debit card and bank card during the past 4 weeks are 679 M CHF per week and thus 13% below the pre-COVID-19 level (783 M CHF per week). (See the Appendix for a note on our changed methodology to measure cash-withdrawals).
  • Payments by credit cards at domestic point-of-sale (PoS) reached 376 M CHF per week during the past 4 weeks and are therefore 12% above the pre-COVID-19 level (334 M CHF per week). Online payments by credit cards to domestic merchants reached 122 M CHF per week during the past 4 weeks and are therefore 20% below the pre-COVID-19 level (152 M CHF per week).

[1] Due to the absence of data for the year of 2019, we cannot compare payment card transactions to the previous year. Thus, we compare the most recent data to the pre-COVID-19 period of 2020, i.e., the 10 weeks from 02.01. – 11.03.2020.

Debit card payments at point-of-sale: Significant increase compared to 2019 continues for restaurants / accommodations as well as tourist regions.

Graph 2. Debit card transactions at PoS by merchant category, 2020 vs 2019 in %
Graph 3: Weekly debit card transactions at PoS by Canton (Graubünden), 2020 vs. 2019
  • A year-on-year comparison of debit card payments at PoS shows an increase of 22% for the past 4 calendar weeks (CW32-35).
  • The remarkable significant increase of payments for accommodation and restaurants has continued. The respective volume of debit card transactions in CW32-35 was 39% higher than in the same weeks of 2019. Transaction volumes in the merchant category food & supermarkets have increased by 27% compared to 2019 while transaction volumes in other retail stores lie 20% above those for 2019.
  • During the calendar weeks CW32-35, transactions in regions with a strong tourism sector have strongly exceeded those of 2019. For example, in the Canton of Graubünden, sales are up by 42% compared to the same weeks in the preceding year. However, with the end of the holiday period, payments in these regions have started to decline.
  • Inner cities continue to benefit the least from the recovery in domestic consumption. Here, transaction volumes with debit cards at PoS for CW32-35 are 16% higher than in the preceding year, while in commuting zones around the cities’ transaction volumes are 28% higher than in 2019 (See Dashboard).
  • Spending by Swiss consumers in neighboring countries has diverged in the past 4 weeks. In France (+18%), Italy (+19%) and Austria (+9%), debit card transaction volumes at point of sale are significantly higher than in 2019. Debit card purchases in Germany just matched the levels of the previous year (See Dashboard).

Credit card payments: Cross-border payments on decline as holiday season comes to an end.

Graph 4: Weekly cross-border credit card transactions by channel, 2020
  • In the past 4 weeks, credit card spending by Swiss consumers at foreign point of sales has declined from 188M CHF per week at the end of July to 118M CHF at the end of August. This could also be related to the end of the peak holiday season.
  • Cross-border online payments have also declined from 147M CHF per week at the end of July to 127M CHF at the end of August.

Appendix: Methodological Note on the Change of Measurement of Cash Withdrawals.

As of August 28, we have changed the reporting of cash withdrawals in our weekly Dashboard The background to this methodological change is the following:

During 2018 – 2020 ATMs in Switzerland are being migrated to a new system (ATM futura), which records withdrawals by own-bank clients as well as other-bank clients. Previously, only transactions by other-bank clients were reported to SIX BBS AG.

The variables previously reported on our dashboard were based on withdrawals from the full sample of ATM covered by SIX BBS AG: This includes a significant number of ATM which have been migrated to the new (ATM futura) system after 1st January 2020. The reported withdrawals by these ATM increase after migration to the new system as they then also report withdrawals from own bank clients. These reporting changes lead to an upward bias in the time trend of cash withdrawals.

The variables now reported are based on withdrawals from selected ATM which – as per 31 December 2019 – were already migrated to the new (ATM futura) system. The analysis covers roughly 3/4 of all ATM covered by SIX BBS AG. For these ATM’s the analysis covers withdrawals by debit cards and bank cards issued to domestic clients only.