Credit cards have been around for quite sometimes, and with the invention of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, one would be mistaken to think that cash is a thing of the past altogether. Surprisingly this is not the case in Europe where cash transactions remain popular. Some European countries are even reporting an increase in cash transactions. About three-quarters of point-of-sale transactions are made in cash payment, although customers have options to choose from. About 79% of sales in the European Union are in cash, representing about 54% of the total value. Whether this will last for the foreseeable future is uncertain. Although cash remains popular in Europe, it is more dominant in some countries.
About 92% of transactions in Malta are in cash, representing 74% of the total value. The dominance of cash makes it clear that Malta will be among the last countries to fully adopt digital transactions. In 2016, Myney, a digital currency company, introduced a cashless payment system that enables customers to pay by scanning their phones. Cash dominance in Malta is not due to a lack of alternatives but a preference. Myney is the first Maltese owned electronic currency company, and there is hope that it will lead the country to a digital currency revolution.
About 88 percent of point-of-sale transactions in Cyprus are made in cash. In 2017 the Finance Ministry proposed a bill to criminalize cash transactions over €10,000 to ease the pressure on the circulation of currency. Customers making transactions over €10,000 will be required to do so using electronic means such as mobile and plastic money orders through bank transactions. The move also seeks to curb money laundering and align the country’s financial regulations with those of the European Union. With a population of slightly less than two million, it is not unimaginable that the state can fully embrace digital currency.
Despite being an established economy, Spain is still largely dependent on cash transactions. There are about 1074 ATMs per million people compared with the European Union average of about 878. Cash remains popular in Spain, although 87% of the population owns a mobile phone, and the country is one of the fastest-growing markets in Europe. In 2017, Google pay and Apple pay launched services in Spain, hoping to attract millions of potential customers. Cash preference is dominant in retail, even though payment options are available.
Germany is the largest economy in Europe and a technological hub, but cash still accounts for 80% of all transactions. In major cities such as Berlin and Munich, “Cash Only” signs hang in front of restaurants and shops. While Germany’s neighbors are quickly swapping cash for digital currency, Germans are holding on to their Euro bills. Most people argue that cash is easy to use and acceptable in almost all stores in addition to keeping track of personal spending and privacy in transactions.
About 86% of transactions in Italy are in cash, despite the country being a popular tourist destination. Nearly all stores in major cities accept cash transactions. Cash is so dominant in Italy that the government has set aside €3bn as financial bonuses to those who transact electronically. Italy seeks to curb the black economy and tax fraud. Many Italians are suspicious of digital currency companies and opt to have full control of their finances. Italy’s black market is among the largest in Europe. Billions of transactions are untraceable, paving the way for tax cheats and money laundering.
Cashless Economies In Europe
Nordic countries lead in the adoption of cashless transactions. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have opted for the cashless economy as Sweden aims to be entirely cashless by 2022. About 15% of transactions are cashless as most people prefer mobile and card transactions. Having cash in Sweden does not necessarily guarantee access to goods or services; public transport drivers no longer accept banknotes and coins. The rampant use of credit and debit cards have led stores across the country to reject cash. The main motivation is speedier service delivery and less crime. In the United Kingdom, debit and credit cards, have promoted online and contactless payments. Just like Sweden, public transport does not accept cash in the United Kingdom, and several ATMs have ceased dispensing cash. Big purchases and bill payments have also gone cashless. The trend has found its way into restaurants, bars, and pubs, where cash was traditionally dominant.
A Cashless World?
Countries around the world are embracing a cashless culture to increase efficiency and promote the distribution of currency. Canada is quickly becoming a cashless society, as 85% of transactions are electronic. China is the world’s largest cashless economy. Unlike Western countries that prefer debit and credit cards, China has opted for QR codes. Australia, Japan, and the United States also have well established cashless payment modes.
10 European Countries Where Cash Transactions Are Popular
|Share of cash transactions at POS (points of sale)
in selected countries in Europe as of 2016 (top 10)