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Share of cash transactions at POS in the euro area 2016 and 2019, by country

Should you carry cash in Europe? This will highly depend on the country you are visiting. According toEurope-wide surveys from 2017 and 2019 (the only one that compared the use of paper money for in-person transactions across the euro countries), cash was used most in the southern countries of Europe, as well as in Germany, Austria and Slovenia. Only in the Netherlands, Finland, and Estonia did cash money make up less than half of all payments at shops, restaurants, petrol stations and street merchants. Note that numbers for the United Kingdom (UK), Denmark and Sweden were not included in this ranking - as they do not have the euro as a currency, the scope of these surveys. Statista made its own ranking on how much cash money consumers used in 38 countries across Europe, regardless of currency.

A continent of debit cards, not credit cards

A large part of cashless payments across the European continent can be attributed to the high penetration of debit cards in various countries. This is different from, for instance, the United States - a country that predominantly uses credit cards. Indeed, with the exception of only two European countries, debit cards per capita outweighed credit cards per capita in over 30 countries. Also unlike the United States, there was no single market leader for payments in the whole of Europe. Visa and MasterCard had varying market shares across Europe in 2018, sometimes being the biggest in one country but virtually not present in another.

What is the market size of contactless payments in Europe?

Much like with cash money, the use of contactless payments varied per country. Contactless payment transactions reached a market share of 83 percent in all POS sales in Poland in 2018, whereas this percentage was only 14 percent in neighboring Germany. Not much is known in Europe about the number of users of Apple Pay: domestic banks that provide these services are not allowed to share user figures. A 2019 survey suggested debit cards were significantly more popular in Europe than either Apple Pay or Google Pay, but whether COVID-19 impacted this behavior is not yet clear.

Share of cash transactions at POS (points of sale) in the euro area in 2016 and 2019

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Release date

December 2020



Survey time period

March 2019 to December 2019

Number of respondents

41,455 respondents

Age group

14 years and older

Special properties

Sample of the population of each country from Kantar Public's internet panels, based on three demographic characteristics: gender, age and region of residence. Purposive sampling was used.

Method of interview

Omnibus survey

Supplementary notes

* Excluded from this survey were Germany and the Netherlands, as both countries supplied information from their central banks. One important note for Germany: the figures it provided were for 2016 and 2017, not 2016 and 2019 like all the other countries.

The figures shown here are based off payment diaries, held in three waves from March 2019 to December 2019 and published in December 2020. The source mentions there was a small questionnaire in 2020 asking about the impact of COVID-19 on payments behavior. The source chose not to include this information as "the two surveys cannot be directly compared" and "it cannot be predicted how the changes in the methodology influence the results in terms of an over- or underestimation of cash usage".

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