Share of cash transactions at POS in Europe 2016, by country

Should you carry cash in Europe? This will highly depend on the country you are visiting. According to a Europe-wide survey from 2017 (the only one that compared the use of paper money for in-person transactions across the continent), cash was used most in the southern countries of Europe, as well as in Germany, Austria and Slovenia. Only in the Netherlands 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 were not part of the original survey) but were added later by a different source in 2019. This second source, however, mentions that the methodologies for UK and Sweden were “slightly different but (…) broadly comparable”. Also, it does not mention specifically whether these three “new” numbers were from 2016 or later (such as 2018 or 2019).

Is Europe still using cash money in 2019?

No numbers are available on this. The mentioned ranking is the only time the use of cash money was measured for the European continent. Domestic sources for each individual country might answer this question. One could also argue that numbers on the use of ATMs for cash withdrawal is a possible indicator. In 2017, Portugal, for example, had around 168 ATMs per 100,000 adults. This was higher than in other European countries. The number decreased throughout the years, however.

Then, what is the market size of cashless 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. Credit card ownership was also different per country. In 2017, 71 percent of the population in Norway had a credit card compared to 39 percent in the Netherlands.

Share of cash transactions at POS (points of sale) in selected countries in Europe as of 2016

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Release date

November 2017



Survey time period

October 2015 to July 2016**

Number of 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

Face-to-face interview, online survey

Supplementary notes

* The sample excluded Germany and the Netherlands. For these countries, data from the central banks were used.

** The source states that "over two-thirds of interviews were carried out in October, November [2015] and February [2016], which are considered to be fairly average months with respect to POS payments made by consumers."

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