FinTech QPay reveals Australian university students’ spending habits

Muhammad Satti and Zaki Bouguettaya Founders of QPay

An anonymised analysis of 40,000 university student’s debit card statements shows how dramatic COVID’s impact was on spending patterns across Australia.

Despite being a year with record job-losses, 2020 saw a marked increase in student incomes.

This showed how they dealt with the loneliness of lockdown, with an increased spending on discretionary services (there was a 129% growth in OnlyFans spending) and how they became reliant on ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) schemes, which saw a 315% increase. 

The data was gleaned from the new QPay card, a Mastercard issued by QPay – the world’s largest university student engagement platform.

The Australian based company introduced the QPay card with a trailblazing mission – to improve the financial literacy of Australian students by being the first card in Australia to incentivise savings rather than spending

How is QPay able to conduct this analysis?

“Our QPay MasterCard is radical in its design – unlike other credit and debit cards that have incentives in place to encourage spending and therefore debt .”

“We built a debit card that would do the opposite by incentivising savings and our data proves it is working,” said Zaki Bouguettaya, Co-Founder & CEO of QPay.

“During 2020, the balances of our users doubled from the previous year, up by 96%.” 

“This coincided with the introduction of our points system, where students received points that can be redeemed for real life rewards depending on how much money they saved, and for how long that money remained in their account.” 

The cornerstone of the card is our real-time cash back rewards, where certain items attract a discount in the form of cash back straight back into their QPay MasterCard.

Most of our discounts are for low-value but highly repetitive types of purchases, which helps our users get into the habit of seeking out bargains, and consider the value of each purchase.

The data also showed women were 11% more likely to have a higher balance than men.

Lifestyle spending during COVID also saw some very marked changes, with the analysis of anonymised transactions from over 40,000 students using the QPay card:

What are the findings of QPay’s analysis?

OnlyFans registered 129% growth.

Buy-Now Pay-Later payments registered 315% growth

This is definitely an area of growth with our data showing a unique approach to how students were paying these debts down. Almost as soon as they received a small cashback reward into their QPay card account, 21% paid down their BNPL debt.

When you consider the average reward amount is only $4, it indicates that the BNPL debt has gotten so urgent, that some students are relying on small, uneven amounts to pay back what little they can to a growing debt-base

Recurring Payments registered 29% growth

What’s interesting in this one, is the majority of that growth was fuelled by discretionary services (Netflix, OnlyFans, etc), vs “staple” ones like Internet or Phone, etc

Food Delivery registered 49% growth

This one isn’t surprising. With lockdowns, we expected to see a bump in these services.

Non-alcoholic beers

This is still a niche with our users, but we saw 1 transaction for non-alcoholic beer in all of 2019, and 112 in 2020. The trend seems to be that non-alcoholic drinks are growing in popularity. It’s clear COVID is an accelerator of some kind, and what seems to be the broader trend in Australia. Another drink trend is Bubble tea, which saw an 11% growth


What we classified as wages (recurring income, on a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly interval with variance of 10% for each interval), increased by 4%. We expected this to decrease during COVID, but it is likely to be a small increase due to JobSeeker/JobKeeper.

We make this correlation because the wage increase percentage (taking into more accounts) is now back down to only 1.2% above 2019 levels, and the only difference we can see is that Jobseeker ended in March. The number of declines increased by 201% during 2020.

This corroborates our survey from 2018 before the QPay card was even launched, where we asked our users how they saved money, and the fourth most popular response was “I keep using the card until it stops working”.

Declines can happen for a range of reasons, but the significant increase signals that despite a higher overall average balance, people were struggling with finances on a day-to-day level.

Crypto purchases registered 23% growth

What’s interesting is that this peaked around November 2020, but has fallen sharply since. Our thinking is that people were looking for quick gains, but the volatility in various coins meant you could lose money as easily as you could gain it.

This fits into our theory on balance increases and an increase in declines – students are struggling with their day to day finances, and looking for alternative ways to generate wealth.

With 40,000 students currently using the QPay debit card and 2,000 students being onboarded each week across Australia, the card is merely the tip of the iceberg for the company that aims to have a hand in every transaction for people under the age of 25. 

“At the heart of QPAY is an integrated payment gateway already being used by 1 in 5 students in Australia, and by most university societies and clubs across campuses,” said Muhammad Satti, Co-Founder & CFO of QPay.

“We launched QPay in 2017 as a one-stop-shop student app, to make life easier for students.”

“Users can buy textbooks, university-branded apparel, university club memberships, functions and events, and split bills to fund late-night food raids, to name just a few functions.”

“We are very passionate in making sure there are no debt-facilities on our QPay card- especially in the now-broad adoption of buy now, pay later services, where 1 in 5 users already struggle to make payments,” said Muhammad Satti.

QPay is growing fast – the majority of its growth is fuelled by a combination of organic growth, and the inherently social aspects of the platform.

Crowned as SharkTank’s highest earning business ever, It’s currently on track for $2.1M revenue by the end of 2021, a 5x increase from the previous year. And while 1 in 5 students currently use QPay in Australia, this is expected to grow to 50% within 3 years.

With each student already using the card transacting about 4-5 times per month with an average spend of $92 per transaction, that’s $180 million per month in transactions, which equates to a revenue of $4-5 million per year.

QPay is currently undergoing a Birchal equity crowdfunding raise with a target of $2.5 million. QPay plans to use the funds to continue its global expansion, where its already growing at an astronomical rate – adding 2 new countries in the last 4 months.