Preference for cash over digital payments varies across Europe

08 February 2024 Consultancy.eu 2 min. read

Despite the continued rise of digital payments, cash still is king in many European countries, according to a survey from BearingPoint, which asked respondents in Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland about their preferred payment method.

Austria was the country with the most respondents that reported using mostly cash when making purchases. Contactless debit cards were another main payment type, with Finland leading the way in that category. A total of 71% of respondents in Finland said they prefer to pay by contactless debit card.

In total, 43% of respondents said that paying with cash offered more anonymity, with card payments and other payment services facilitating more traceability. Austrians held this position the most, with 56% of respondents there noting the anonymity of using cash.

Preference for cash over digital payments varies across Europe

Source: BearingPoint Payment Survey

“It is interesting to see that cash is very common across all age groups and is clearly number one among respondents. It is also noteworthy that in the 18-24 age group, cash is used more frequently on average than mobile payment services,” said Christian Bruck, Partner and payments expert at BearingPoint.

Above all, cash reigns supreme mostly in the German-speaking countries. Austria and Germany showed a higher preference for cash payments when related to the other countries in the survey. Finland has far fewer people that prefer cash, at only 43%.

“The survey showed that there are clear, country-specific characteristics in the usage behavior of payment methods across Europe. Mobile payment services are more widely used in countries where country-specific solutions are offered and widely supported,” said Robert Bosch, Partner and Head of Banking & Capital Markets at BearingPoint.

Preference for cash over digital payments varies across Europe

Source: BearingPoint Payment Survey

Bosch added that the digital payments infrastructure is currently still relatively fragmented. While consolidation is taking place, “there is still a high potential for a future, uniform, European mobile payment solution.”

Besides cash and contactless debit card, other methods were reported far less frequently in the survey. For example, check payments are still used, though very sparingly, in France. Checks are barely used at all in other countries in Europe and largely seen as a relic from the American banking system.

While cash still rules in most countries for now, economies around the world are slowly turning towards cashless payments. A previous study found that cashless payments are likely to increase significantly worldwide in the next several years.