There is a growing acceptance of digital currencies—spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic—according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by Crypto.com. 

Consumers are increasingly adopting cashless payment methods amidst growing interest from governments on central bank digital currencies. China has—for many—led the way on the CBDC front after working on the technology since as early as 2014. More recently, countries like the UK have stepped into the CBDC field, with the Bank of England and HM Treasury launching a task force earlier this year.

“Money is rapidly evolving. Only a few years ago, there seemed to be very little commercial or popular support for even the idea of a digital currency, and within the past year, we’ve seen several governments announce new plans to create digital versions of their currencies,” said Jason Wincuinas, the EIU editor who spearheaded the report. 

Per the report, the trend towards cashless payments has existed before 2021; but COVID-19 accelerated this move away from cash. 

The digital currency data

In 2020—when the EIU published its first report on cashless payments—only 72% of respondents said their country was likely to become a cashless society. In 2021, this figure grew to over 81%, or over four in every five respondents. 

The group that believed their countries would “never” become cashless societies fell from 28% in 2020 to 19% this year. 

In contrast, 27% of survey respondents said they always use digital payments instead of physical cash. This is up from the 22% found in last year’s study. Those who rarely use digital payment options have declined, too, from 14% last year to 12% this year. 

Just over three-quarters of corporate treasury and institutional investor executives (76%) said that COVID-19 accelerated the demand for—and adoption of—digital currencies. Particularly, the concept of digital currencies playing the role of digital gold is gaining acceptance among executives, the report found. 

Amidst the growing popularity of digital currencies, 55% of survey respondents said they are at least aware of cryptocurrencies, even if they have no exposure to them or experience with them.