Purpose: COVID-19 and its measures such as physical distancing have shifted consumer payment behaviors toward cashless payment. Physical distancing is likely to remain a norm for some time to come and will be relevant in any future pandemics. This study aims to examine the impact of consumers’ perceived value of cashless payment on their use intention in the physical distancing context, with the mediating role of psychological safety and the moderating role of trust propensity. Design/methodology/approach: This study used a survey method to obtain data from 690 consumers in an Asian emerging market, i.e. Vietnam. The data were analyzed using different statistical methods, including structural equation modeling. Findings: Results show that perceived value of cashless payment positively affects use intention, and this effect is mediated by psychological safety. Furthermore, trust propensity has a positive moderating effect on the link between perceived value and psychological safety. Practical implications: This study’s findings provide implications for retailers and other stakeholders in implementing and promoting cashless payment systems, especially in the physical distancing context. Originality/value: This study is among the first attempt to explain the relationships between consumers’ perceptions, feelings of psychological safety and use intention toward cashless payment in the physical distancing context. The study’s findings may also be relevant to any future pandemics.