Cash remains the most popular means of making payments in person, but its use is declining in favour of cards, according to the European Central Bank (ECB).
At the end of 2019, 73% of adults used cash for retail transactions, although that represented only 48% in value terms. Major purchases, such as furniture, electronics or travel would still be made by credit card.
The figure was down from a previous survey from 2016, in both number of cash transactions (79%) and value (54%).
In 2019, the use of cards had gone up from 19% to 24% of transactions (41% in value), with almost four in ten card payments contactless.
To take into account the effects on payment methods of the pandemic, the ECB carried out an ad hoc survey in this year. That found that four people in ten said they had used cash less than the beginning of the pandemic, with most of those saying they would continue to use other methods after the crisis had passed.
The Belgian National Bank, meanwhile, confirmed that the use of cash was declining in Belgium, but pointed out that the decline is happening less rapidly here that in the Netherlands, Austria, Finland or France.
“Consumers’ freedom to choose their payment method is of the utmost importance to us,” said ECB executive board member Fabio Panetta. “Therefore we aim to ensure acceptance of and access to cash throughout the euro area, while promoting innovation on digital payments, including in our work on the possible issuance of a digital euro.”
“The data published today will help the ECB and the national central banks of the euro area to better understand consumer demand and market trends, as well as to implement the Eurosystem’s retail payments and cash strategies,” the bank said in a statement.
“These include the promotion of competitive, innovative and resilient pan-European market solutions, as well as a commitment to keep cash accessible and accepted as a means of payment throughout the euro area.”