Cards or Cash? A Quick Look

The UAE is one of the most rapidly changing countries when it comes to moving away from a cash-based society. Over the last few years, local government bodies have implemented regulations to promote electronic payments. For example, the Wage Protection System by the Ministry of Labour has made electronic salary transfer mandatory, which has in turn encouraged the use of debit cards. The wide selection of product offerings for credit cards and free-for-life prepaid cards has also increased the penetration of card payments instead of cash.

We take a quick look at the advantages of debit cards and cash.

Debit Cards:

Convenient and quick. Just hand over your debit card and get the payment over and done with.

No interest on purchases & no fees.

Protected by your Personal Identification Number (PIN). On the other hand, cash is only protected by your ability to defend your wallet, while debit cards can also be blocked.


Psychological advantage. You count bills while paying, making a mental note of EXACTLY how much you’ve spent. The dent in your wallet is visible and that keeps a subconscious check (in most cases) on future spending.

Harder to loose than a plastic card. Bills are usually stacked well together in one’s wallet and are difficult to miss versus a card, which could easily be misplacced.

Helps you stick to your budget. It’s similar to maintaining a calorie count. You know exactly how much you’ve spent and how much remains in the monthly budget. Cash helps keep a tab on whimsical and impulsive buying.

Here are some statistics by Retail Banker International on debit card usage in the United Arab Emirates:



  • In terms of payment processors, it is dominated by two providers. Visa has 54.3% of the market, followed by Maestro at 45.7%.


  • Debit card transactions grew from AED 175.0 billion in 2008 to AED 353.5 billion in 2012, at an annual growth rate of 19%, and are anticipated to continuing growing at 10% annually until 2017.


  • The frequency of use of debit cards increased from 32.7 transactions per card per year in 2008 to 49.0 in 2012.

Related articles:

E-Commerce Transactions Need to be Kick Started

A Foolproof Way to Protect Against Credit Card Fraud

Online Banking in the UAE Becoming a Big Hit