Cash remains king but digital payments are catching up, ECB study finds


A study by the European Central Bank (ECB) has found that while cash is the most commonly used form of payment, electronic payments are quickly catching up.

The study measured the payment attitudes of consumers in the euro area. According to the research, cash was used for 59% of point-of-sale transactions, which was down from 72% in 2019.

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.

At the same time, the trend towards electronic means of payments has accelerated with the pandemic and a majority of consumers now prefer to use electronic payment methods.

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.

The next study on the payment attitudes of consumers in the Euro area will be published in 2024.

ECB executive board member Fabio Panetta said, “The ECB is committed to ensuring that consumers remain free to choose how to pay, both now and in the future. We are seeing confirmation of strong demand for both cash and digital payments. Our commitment to cash and our ongoing work on a digital euro aims to ensure that paying with public money is always an option.”

The ECB previously published the results of its thematic review, which has shown that banks are ‘still far’ from managing climate risks.

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