People with disabilities or low digital literacy or who have difficulty making ends meet particularly value cash. Of all Dutch people, 28% say they cannot do without cash and 7% say they only pay with cash at points of sale, but these percentages are higher for the aforementioned focus groups.Read more
Use of cash lower in euro area countries
Published: 20 December 2022
In most euro area countries, cash is used less and less in point-of-sale (POS) payments, whereas debit and credit cards are used more and more frequently. Nevertheless, cash remains the most important means of payment for six in ten people in the euro area. These are among the findings of a large-scale survey of payment behaviour in the euro area conducted by the European Central Bank (ECB) in 2022, to which we have contributed.
Cash used less and less in euro area countries
Cash is still the most widely accepted means of payment for point-of-sale (POS) payments, with 59% of transactions being settled in cash, compared to 34% using cards (both debit and credit cards). Cash usage has fallen sharply in recent years (see Figure 1). In 2016, an average of 79% of POS payments were still made with cash. The total value of cash POS payments has likewise fallen, from 54% in 2016 to 41% in 2022. The EBC notes that the COVID-19 pandemic may have amplified the decline, as restrictions or warnings were in place in many euro area countries to prevent the spread of the virus.
The decline in cash use mainly reflects the increasing popularity of card payments – their use has almost doubled on average across all euro countries since 2016 (see Figure 1). Of all these card payments, 62% are now made contactless, up 21 percentage points from 2019. People are also using smartphones more and more often for POS payments. Many people say they prefer using a card because they like not having to carry a lot of cash. They also find card payments easier and faster.
Figure 1 - Shares of different means of payment in the euro area
Dutch least likely to pay with cash after Finns
In the Netherlands, we also conduct regular surveys on the use of means of payment in POS payments, together with the Dutch Payments Association, whose members work to ensure a secure, reliable and trustworthy national payment system The results from this survey were incorporated into the ECB report. In the Netherlands, after Finland (19%), people are the least likely to pay with cash (21%), followed by Luxembourg (39%). Cash usage in the Netherlands is down from 34% in 2019 and far below the average for all euro area countries combined (59%). Cash is particularly common in Malta (77% of all purchases), but it also a popular means of payment in Slovenia (73%) and Austria (70%). In addition, smartphones are a very popular means of payment in the Netherlands compared to other countries. 10% of all POS payments in the Netherlands were made by smartphone – the largest share in all euro area countries.
Figure 2 - Shares of payment instruments in total number of POS payments in the Netherlands
Many consumers find it important to be able to continue paying with cash
While the use of cash is declining, the number of consumers who value being able to pay with cash actually seems to be increasing somewhat. In 2019, 55% of all consumers in the euro area said that being able to pay with cash was important or very important to them. This share rose to 60% by 2022 (see Figure 3). Almost half of Dutch consumers (46%) also consider it important or very important to be able to pay with cash. This is slightly lower than the average across all euro countries.
Figure 3 - Importance of being able to use cash in euro area countries and in the Netherlands
By using cash, 40% of people in euro area countries say they have more control over their spending than when paying with a card. Another frequently cited advantage of cash over paying with a card is anonymity (40%) – cash is a means of payment that guarantees privacy. Furthermore, 32% cited the fact that a cash payment is settled right away as a pro. These three findings are consistent with how Dutch consumers feel about cash.
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