Payment methods in the Benelux - Statistics & Facts

The European continent has many different payment methods and various approaches on them. Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are no exception to this. Nonetheless, it is noticeable in all three countries that the use of cash money is relatively low compared to most European countries. In 2018, only the Nordics and the United Kingdom used banknotes and coins significantly less than the Benelux, whereas figures in France and Switzerland were roughly comparable. This is where the similarities end, however. When it comes to contactless payments, for example, the Netherlands used NFC payments more than Luxembourg and especially Belgium. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, on the other hand, registered high figures for e-money. Finally, Belgium shows more diversity in its online payment methods, combining both domestic schemes with international credit cards.

Bancontact is a Belgium-only payment scheme and the country’s market leader when it comes to electronic payment methods. It can be found on debit cards from domestic banks such as BNP Paribas Fortis, Belfius and KBC. In a way, Bancontact is comparable to PayPal in that it is responsible for processing electronic payments for goods purchased online. As the payment scheme is on a debit card, however, it is also responsible for processing purchases in a brick-and-mortar store. PayPal use in Belgium increased, though, during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, possibly through increased e-commerce and websites that did not offer Bancontact, such as the French and German Amazon websites. Many Belgian consumers expect to use mobile payments or contactless payments more often in the near future. The expected increase in the use of debit cards, however, was far larger than the increase of either payment method.

Dutch consumers in 2019 were very much into contactless payments. That year, 57 percent of all young adults from 19 to 24 years old used their debit cards for a contactless transaction in their POS payments. This figure was slightly different for their younger counterparts, as nearly one out of four payments completed by 12-to-18-year-olds was done with cash money. Credit cards were used rarely in the country, making up only 2 percent of offline retail payments in ages 35 to 44. Just 0.03 billion of all 6.84 billion payment transactions in hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, market stalls, petrol stations and service providers in 2018 were done with a credit card. Transactions with wearables, on the other hand, were much more popular. In 2019, one third of all these transactions in Europe came from the Netherlands, followed by the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Russia. Wearables can include smartwatches, such as Apple Watch, or fitness trackers like Garmin, but also include armbands, rings and keychains.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg stands out within the Benelux region for its credit card use. In 2018, the country had issued more credit cards than debit cards, something that is rare across all of Europe. This was due to different factors. First, the domestic population relies on buying goods from abroad via the Internet. In 2019, these so-called cross-border e-commerce purchases were most likely to happen in smaller European states, such as Malta, Cyprus, Montenegro, Luxembourg, and Iceland. Almost nine out of ten Luxembourgish respondents said that when they bought something online they used a foreign seller, either from within the EU or a country outside the EU (such as China). Credit card transactions accounted for one-third of total payments in volume in the country in 2018, both domestic as well as abroad. This figure, however, does not include withdrawals at ATMs, meaning cash money was not represented. According to a Europe-wide survey from 2017, Luxembourg was listed as a country where cash was used less often than in, for example, Germany or France.

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Payment methods in the Benelux

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