Slowdown of Debit PoS transactions in November – Online Credit card payments surge as Black Friday marks start of Christmas shopping

December 9, 2020 (auch auf Deutsch)

Consumption in November 2020 continued to be impacted by the federal and cantonal measures that were put into place to combat the second wave of Covid-19[1].

Total domestic payment card transactions: Volume in CHF is only 4% higher than at the beginning of the year

Dashboard: Payment Card Transactions in Switzerland by week
  • During the past 4 weeks (November 5 – December 3), the total volume of domestic payments by debit and credit card as well as cash withdrawals amounted to 2’048 M CHF per week. The total card transaction volume is thus 4% above the pre-COVID-19 level[2] (1,963 M CHF per week). The total level of payment card transactions in the past 4 weeks appears low, once adjusted for seasonal patterns in retail expenditures: For example, the retail trade index for Switzerland shows that in 2019 retail turnover was 13.4% higher in November than in January-March[3].
  • Payments by debit cards at point-of-sale (PoS) reached 832 M CHF per week during the past 4 weeks and are therefore 20% 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 676 M CHF per week and thus 14% below the pre-COVID-19 level (783 M CHF per week).
  • Payments by credit cards at domestic point-of-sale (PoS) reached 367 M CHF per week during the past 4 weeks and are therefore 10% above the pre-COVID-19 level (334 M CHF per week).
  • Online payments by credit cards to domestic merchants reached 172 M CHF per week during the past 4 weeks and are therefore 14% above the pre-COVID-19 level (152 M CHF per week).

Debit card payments at point-of-sale: Slow-down in inner-cities since introduction of new federal Covid19 measures

  • November has seen a significant slowdown in debit card payments at PoS. Compared to 2019 our data reveal only an increase of 12% for the past 4 calendar weeks (CW46-49). In the period prior to the 2nd wave federal regulations (CW25-42) the year-on-year difference was 22%[4].
  • During the past 4 calendar weeks (CW46-49), the year-on-year change in debit card PoS payments has remained high for merchants in the category of “Food & Supermarkets” (+30% compared to 2019). By contrast, merchants in the category “Accommodation & Restaurants” have seen a significant decline in Debit PoS payments in the past 4 weeks. (-20% compared to 2019).  
Graph 2. Debit card transactions at PoS by merchant category and calendar week (in Million CHF)
  • The Canton of Geneva experienced a significant decline in debit PoS payments after imposing a local shutdown of all non-essential shops from November 2 – November 27. In the last four weeks (CW46 vs. CW 49) the volume of debit POS payments was 20% lower than in 2019. 
Graph 3. Debit card transactions at PoS by Swiss card holders by canton and calendar week (in Million CHF): Canton Geneva
  • The slowdown in Debit PoS payments in November is strongest in city-centre locations (+4% for CW46-49 compared to 2019). By comparison, the year-on-year change for merchants in rural municipalities zones reached +25% in CW46-49.
  • Spending by Swiss consumers in all neighboring countries continued to be low during the past 4 weeks. In Germany debit card transaction purchases by Swiss consumers at point of sale are 38% lower than in CW46-49 than in 2019. Cross-border debit transactions in France (-54%), Austria (-64%) and Italy (-72%) have seen even stronger declines.
Graph 4. Debit card transactions at PoS by Swiss card holders in Germany by calendar week (in Million CHF)

Credit card transactions: Online payments peak at end of November due to Black-Friday and Cyber-Monday.

  • Online payments with credit cards to domestic merchants reached their year-to-date (ytd.) high in the last week of November (82% above ytd.-average). This increase is largely attributed to e-commerce purchases due to Black-Friday and Cyber-Monday. Domestic point of sale purchases also reached their year-to-date high in the last week of November (28% above ytd.-average).
  • Online purchases from foreign merchants surged in the last week of November exceeding their year average by 46%.  By contrast cross-border PoS transactions with credit cards continued to be low (28% below ytd.-average).
Graph 5: Weekly cross-border credit card transactions by channel, 2020

[1] On the federal level the measures include (since 19 October) an extended obligation to wear masks; food and drink in restaurants, bars, nightclubs and at private events is only to be consumed while seated. Additional federal measures to become effective as of 9 December have already been determined. Some cantons implemented additional local measures which tend to be stricter in the western part of Switzerland. Geneva had the strongest measures in place, with non-essential shops closed for most of the month.

[2] 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.

[3] http://monitoringconsumption.com/DHU_nowcast

[4] The overall increase of Debit PoS payments seems to be largely driven by a shift in payment behavior, with debit card payments replacing cash payments http://monitoringconsumption.com/Covid19_Cash