Cash is still used for most consumer payments in the Eurozone, but its share is declining

According to the latest study by the European Central Bank (ECB), cash is still the most frequently used means of consumer payment at the point of sale (POS), but its share is declining matched by a rise in electronic payments.  Consumers prefer electronic payment methods, but value having cash as an option.  The trend towards electronic means of payments has accelerated with the pandemic and a majority of consumers now prefer to use electronic payment methods.

Some key results from the study are:

Cash Payments

  • Cash was used for 59% of point-of-sale transactions in 2022, down from 72% in 2019.
  • It is the means of payment most often used for small-value payments in stores and for person-to-person transactions.
  • A majority (60%) also consider it important to have cash as a payment option.
  • Consumers perceive cash as helpful to remain aware of their expenditures, to protect their privacy and to allow transactions to be settled immediately.
  • Overall, consumers are satisfied with their access to cash, with a large majority of consumers finding it easy to get to an ATM or a bank to withdraw cash in most countries.
  • The perceived key advantages of cash were its anonymity and protection of privacy and the perception that it makes one more aware of one’s own expenses.
  • 37% of consumers kept cash reserves at home, outside the wallet or a bank account, up from 34% in 2019.
  • Cash was accepted in 95% of physical payment locations throughout the euro area, down from 98% in 2019.

Electronic Payments

  • The share of online purchases as a percentage of all euro area day-to-day transactions has increased significantly to stand at 17% in 2022, up from 6% in 2019.
  • For purchases at a point of sale, the share of card payments has grown by 9 percentage points to 34% in 2022, with contactless payments now making up the majority of card payments.
  • Contactless card payments at the POS increased considerably in three years, from 41% of all card payments in 2019 to 62% in 2022.
  • Cards are considered faster and easier to use and are seen as reducing the need to carry large amounts of cash.
  • Cards are the most frequently used payment method for larger payments and account now for a higher share of payments than cash in value terms.
  • The perceived key advantages of cards were that consumers don’t have to carry cash with them, coupled with the convenience of contactless payments.
  • The share of payments using mobile apps increased from less than 1% in 2019 to 3% in 2022.
  • Cashless means of payments, particularly mobile phone apps, increased in P2P payments. Between 2019 and 2022, the share of mobile payments more than tripled in terms of number from 3% to 10%, and rose from 4% to 11% in terms of value.
  • In the euro area it was possible to pay with non-cash instruments in 81% of transactions in 2022.

For full details of the Study on the Payment Attitudes of Consumers in the Euro area (SPACE) visit the ECB website.  The report presents the key findings from SPACE 2022 and compares them with the results of the 2019 study and, where relevant, with an earlier ECB study conducted in 2016, the Study on the Use of Cash by Households in the euro area (SUCH).

The next study will be published by the ECB in 2024.

Payment Security

The EAST Expert Group on Payment and Transaction Fraud (EPTF) focuses on the security of payment and transactions. The 14th EAST EPTF meeting took place on 9 November 2022.

The EAST Expert Group on All Terminal Fraud (EGAF) focused on the security of cards and payment terminals. The 27th EAST EGAF meeting took place on 14 September 2022.

The EAST Expert Group on ATM and ATS Physical Attacks (EGAP) focuses on the security of cash, cash handling terminals, and cash-in-transit.  The 18th EAST EGAP meeting took place on 31 August 2022.