Digital euro is coming, but some Europeans are not yet convinced

09 January 2024 3 min. read

The prospect of a digital euro is coming – and one in five Europeans said they would use it at least once a week, according to a survey from BearingPoint. The digital euro is the EU project to offer a public and fully digital alternative to cash issued directly by the European Central Bank, which can be used independent of any commercial bank.

Across all countries surveyed in Europe by BearingPoint, 15% to 21% of respondents said that they would use the digital euro several times a week. Expectations are that it would be free of charge, available for use 24/7, and accepted everywhere both online and offline – just like cash.

Indeed, these are all features the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt promises of the digital euro.

Digital euro is coming, but some Europeans are not yet convinced

The advantages of the digital euro over other forms of digital payment are clear. The currency would be equivalent to the euro in its cash form, and so would be vastly more stable than any cryptocurrencies, which have earned a dodgy reputation in recent years. Users would be able to pay at stores and transfer money to other users using a wallet app completely free of charge, unlike many commercial banking apps.

A major distinction with commercial banking lies in the very nature of the digital euro: Being public money, it is not subject to the hazards associated with privately-held money in banking institutions, like for example during the 2008 financial crisis. That being said, the digital euro still would lose the quality of anonymity offered by cash, which many Europeans value.

“Cash is by far the most popular payment method in Europe. It is so high partly due to the fact that in uncertain times, cash is perceived as particularly familiar and secure. Cash remains highly valued, reflected in the strong majority favouring cash in the next five to ten years,” said Christian Bruck, Partner and Payments Expert at BearingPoint.

Digital euro is coming, but some Europeans are not yet convinced

Most respondents to the survey said that they would look to use the digital euro for online shopping, though many also said they would use it for daily shopping, like grocery shopping.

Though a relatively large amount of respondents said they would use the digital euro (when considering that many people were still unaware of the project), the expectation in Austria and Germany is that most people would continue to use normal cash. Finland, where contactless digital payments are huge already, would expect to see more people using the digital euro once it becomes available.

While there is promise to the prospect of a free and easy to use digital public money, some remain sceptical. There are questions around data security and trust varies depending on the country. A mere 7% of people said they would trust their bank with digital euro transaction data, which is in stark contrast to 58% in Finland.

Digital euro is coming, but some Europeans are not yet convinced

“Although knowledge of the digital euro is now relatively widespread across Europe, with 32% of respondents in the Netherlands not having heard of it, further communication and education is required to ensure acceptance of the digital euro as a supplement to cash,” said Joost Loves, Partner at BearingPoint.

The digital euro as first proposed by the ECB in July 2021. The project would follow in the steps of other central bank digital currency pilot projects. Unlike country-specific digital public currencies, the digital euro would be unique in being available for use in the 20 countries that uses the euro, despite each having separate national central banks.