SEOUL, March 16 (Yonhap) — The pace of growth of payments made with cards in South Korea slowed sharply last year as consumer spending remained tepid amid the coronavirus pandemic, central bank data showed Tuesday.

Spending made with credit, debit and prepaid cards reached a daily average of 2.52 trillion won (US$2.22 billion) in 2020, up 0.6 percent from a year earlier, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The growth rate slowed from a 5.7 percent on-year gain in 2019, the BOK said.

The central bank said card spending only marginally rose last year as people refrained from visiting offline stores amid the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing a blow to consumer spending.

By month, card spending dropped in March and April when the country was gripped by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has rebounded since May.

However, card spending began falling in December last year, when the nation struggled with a third wave of the pandemic.

South Korea has imposed social distancing measures across the nation to contain the spread of virus cases.

The BOK said credit card spending fell 0.3 percent on-year in 2020, while spending made with debit cards rose 1.5 percent.

The use of prepaid cards jumped 590.8 percent last year, largely because of state allowances and emergency relief aids provided in such a form, the BOK said.

By method, contact-free card spending gained 16.9 percent on-year to a daily average of 849 billion won, while card payments made during face-to-face transactions fell 5.6 percent to 1.39 trillion won per day, it said.

The image, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows a payment with a credit card. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)