Europe’s leading cashless economies

A new study has highlighted Europe’s leading cashless economies.

Retail Times report that a new study by Merchant Machine has analysed Europe’s leading cashless economies. The study highlights the countries where citizens would like to go completely cashless the most and who uses contactless payments the most.

COVID19 changes everything

Given the study was pre-lockdown it is likely that the country by country share of contactless payments and percentage of people willing to go cashless will have changed over the past month or so.

Also, the recent increase to contactless transaction limits in a number of countries, including the UK, has yet to make an impact –

Each week LINK publish weekly ATM usage data which has shown that the already significant reduction in ATM withdrawals has accelerated due to the impact of the COVID lockdown. LINK’s data shows that not surprisingly the number of transactions has more than halved over the past few weeks. Read my previous blog: The Future of Cash Post COVID19.

How does the UK compare?

But what does this pre-COVID19 and pre-threshold uplift for contactless payments study tell us about how the UK compares across the European landscape?

Source: Retail Times / Merchant Machine.

Contactless payments are a significant part of the payments mix

The study reports that 6/10 of the countries have over 50% share of contactless payment transactions with the UK being ranked 7th (with 46%). Clearly the figures will increase when CHIP&PIN authorised transactions are added but the UK’s contactless share is far below the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary who occupy the top three positions.

91% Debit card ownership in the UK

The UK ranks joint 3rd with Germany on debit card ownership rates behind the Netherlands (99%) and Belgium (94%). It is vital that the UK’s remaining 9% gap is addressed if we are to ensure that the transition to digital payments doesn’t leave people behind – debits cards (and an underlying ‘bank’ account) are a prerequisite for an accessible, equitable and inclusive payments market.

Cashless is a ‘thing’ but a board range of payment options are important

The study reports that a fifth of people in the UK are already willing to go cashless. This means that the provision of a broad range of payment options (with cash remaining ‘in the mix’ for those that want to continue to use it) is important.

Cash being ‘in the mix’ of a board range of payment options is important as preserving cash for cash sake will ultimately leave people behind.

The UK has a large ATM estate

Interestingly, the UK ranks 2nd for ATM’s per 100,000 people (118), very closely behind Germany with 116 per 100,000 people. There is a lot of market commentary on ATM’s regarding ‘free to use’ and geographical spread but the UK clearly has a lot of ATM’s when compared to its European cousins.

Three takeaways

It is clear that COVID19 changes everything and with an increased contactless payment limit we can expect the role of contactless in the UK payments mix to continue to grow to well in excess of 50%.

With debit cards almost reaching ubiquity every effort must be made to ensure that we close the 9% gap. Equitable, inclusive and accessible digital payment options must be available to all in society – purely preserving cash for cash sake will only serve to leave people behind.

Cashless is a thing but it is vital that it is developed within a board range of payment options.


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For the full article visit Retail Times:

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