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With tap technology and payments by mobile phone, it’s easy to forget what a technological leap ATMs were when started appearing about 50 years ago.

Ask someone what banking was like in the pre-ATM era and they’ll tell you about paper withdrawal slips you filled out in a bank branch with pens that were chained to a table-top so people didn’t pocket them. Branch lineups were normal, but Friday afternoons were the worst as people stopped by to get weekend cash.

Getting quick access to your money through an ATM was a huge win in the pre-electronic banking days, but only one in 10 payments today is made with cash. And so, ATMS are starting to lose relevance. When you can tap to pay, there’s no must-find-cash urgency.

The latest annual Canadian Payment Methods and Trends report from Payments Canada shows that credit cards and debit cards were the most popular ways to pay for things in 2022, at 33 per cent and 31 per cent of total volumes, respectively. Cash’s 10 per cent share represents a 59 per cent decline over the past five years, whereas credit card volumes jumped 23 per cent and debit card volumes 9 per cent.

Bank machines are still found everywhere, but we’ve likely seen peak ATM. Royal Bank of Canada’s annual reports document a decline to 4,028 ATMS in Canada last year from 4,240 in 2019. This decline looks especially noteworthy when you consider how many new subdivisions and retail outlets have been built in recent years, plus population growth.

What’s hot in payments? Credit cards, for sure. But e-transfers and other online transfers grew by 328 per cent in the past five years. They still account for only 5 per cent of payment volumes, so there’s lots of room for growth.

One more fast-growing payment option is the prepaid card, which I wrote about recently. Basically, you load money on these cards and then use them for payments like a credit or debit card. I’ve used these cards a bit lately and I like them.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list

A guide to vehicle financing

If you’re buying a new vehicle, expect the dealer to pitch in-house financing to you. This guide will help you understand how this type of borrowing works in terms of interest rate competitiveness and more.

How to breeze through airport security

Make that expensive flight you booked with ease by following these suggestions. My own rule, after missing a flight a year ago because security was backed up, is to get to the airport early.

How do you make a credit card stand out?

A new front in the competitive war between credit card issuers has opened up. A bunch of new cards are vertical, and not horizontal as most cards are. I’m not sure the difference amounts to much, but here’s a survey of vertical cards.

Best instant noodles

In these inflationary times, instant ramen stands out as an affordable meal. Here’s a review of several different instant noodle brands, with marks ranging from one to five out of five. I haven’t eaten much instant ramen since my student days, but authentic ramen is one of my favourite restaurant meals. In Ottawa, where I live, Sansotei Ramen is the best I’ve had.

Ask Rob

Q: I have been looking into guaranteed investment certificates and have discovered a version that is tied to the performance of a Canadian utilities equity index. I was wondering if you have looked into such things and what you think of them as an option. I am semi-retired, not hugely concerned about risk, and would be willing to invest longer term without needing to access the money.

A: Equity-linked GICs have some fans out there, but I’m not one of them. These GICs offer returns linked to the performance of particular stocks, sectors or indexes, with no risk of losing money. They are not a back-door route to risk-free stock market returns, however. In fact, they’re not risk-free at all. You could end up doing worse than a traditional GIC, which today offers returns of 5 to nearly 6 per cent at best. Higher returns may be possible with an equity-linked GIC. But don’t people buy GICs for certainty in their returns? Alternative idea: Pair GICs with some utility stocks, or a utilities exchange-traded fund like the BMO Equal Weight Utilities Index ETF (ZUT-T) or the iShares S&P/TSX Capped Utilities Index ETF (XUT-T).

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

The Money-Free Zone

1980s new wave fans, The Pretenders are back and in fine form with a new album called Relentless. In the lead song, Losing My Sense of Taste, you hear a world weary echo of the guitar riff from a classic from the band’s heyday, Day After Day.

Watch this

A video on how to watch professional sports on TV, without paying for cable.

Listen to this

In my third appearance on the Rational Reminder podcast, I talk about the state of Canadian personal finance with co-hosts Cameron Passmore and Ben Felix. In the intro, Ben says I have a “boots on the ground perspective.” I kind of like that.

Callout alert

Are you a parent or guardian worried about the inflating cost of post-secondary education? Is it affecting your investment strategy for your RESP, perhaps by pushing you to riskier investments? Globe reporter Salmaan Farooqui wants to hear from RESP holders today and of the past about the kind of products they invest in their RESPs. E-mail to share your story.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories
  • ‘We’re barely making it’: Eight Canadians reveal the pain of soaring mortgage costs
  • How mortgage shoppers can weave their way through the credit-score maze
  • Young Canadian households are abandoning the housing market, data suggest

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