There are 405 ATMs in Malta which may not sound like a lot but is 47% more ATMs per capita than the rest of the Euro area. Malta is a small country, 27km long and 14.5km wide, in fact. If you’ve come to Malta from the UK like we have (have we mentioned our launch here?), then in terms of size – Malta is not much bigger than the Isle of Wight and is five times smaller than London. Which makes 405 a reassuring number of ATMs if you happen to be wondering how easy it would be to get hold of some cash while you’re here.
But is anyone withdrawing cash at the moment?
A bit like blowing out candles on a birthday cake and then handing out slices has become a social no-no (did you not feel a bit of horror just thinking about it?), handing over cash in a shop or to pay for a meal has become similarly, if not as extremely, frowned upon. Where have those coins and notes been been? What will this small exchange of paper do to the R-number?
Predictably then, the use of contactless has risen rapidly since March. The Bank of Valletta has seen a surge of nearly 30% in contactless transactions. While contactless technology has been around for a decade, it only appeared here in 2016 and - with little reason to embrace a change until now, its rise in use was very slow – until COVID. But the uptake is good news for online financial platforms like ours, and for newcomer digital financial services of which a few are now available in Malta, and good news for the general public too (this is true everywhere, not just Malta). Good because ATM charges are relatively high and either the bank or the customer is left to foot a hefty bill per withdrawal. On top of that, some digital or ‘challenger’ platforms increase the cost of withdrawal depending on the amount withdrawn (we don’t) but at the end of the day it seems like an unnecessary fee when contactless technology is readily available, when cash is at least slightly frowned upon if not outright refused and where at this stage in the chaos of 2020 who can remember their PIN anyway?
Are security concerns justified?
The ease of use of contactless does tend to raise people’s concerns about security, at least initially. If you’re using contactless with a debit card rather than a smartphone, it’s true that a stolen card could all too easily be used by a thieving stranger. This is why it’s so important to be able to freeze and unfreeze your card via an app… given that the alternative is to wait 2 hours in a phone queue being tortured by ‘smooth’ 90s R&B, then to answer twenty security questions only to fail to remember the name of your first best friend’s first pet, and ultimately be refused assistance. Freezing a card via an app takes seconds and is as easy to unfreeze when you find your card in the fruit bowl or the fridge… However, concern about security is largely unfounded. The reality is that “contactless cards experience among the lowest fraud rates of any type of payment and that fraud at the physical point of sale has remained at historic lows in countries where contactless payments are widely used.” (Visa).
Change is inevitable and mostly good
The switch to contactless in Malta - and everywhere – means that more people can benefit from innovative technology that is easily able to level-up the status quo on the experience of managing and exchanging money, for everyone. For both businesses and individuals, it just doesn’t need to be such a hassle, it can cost much less than it does and all options should be on the table for the customer to make an informed decision. So, ATM or contactless? That should be up to you. How easy it is to choose and use? That’s up to us and it’s a job we love to do.
wamo is available Europe-wide to download now.