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ECB: Cash Use Across Euro-Area Countries

Categories : Cash is a social network, Cash is available to all users, Cash is the most widely used payment instrument
March 12, 2023
Tags : Access to cash, ATMs, Digital payments, Europe, Payment instruments
The ECB’s latest SPACE study evidences country-level variations in cash use and access to cash after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Manuel A. Bautista-González

Ph.D. in U.S. History, Columbia University in the City of New York

Post-Doctoral Researcher in Global Correspondent Banking, 1870-2000 – Mexico and South America, University of Oxford

This post is also available in: Spanish

The European Central Bank (ECB) published its latest Study on the Payment Attitudes of Consumers in the Euro Area (SPACE) in December 2022. CashEssentials published a summary of SPACE 2022 findings for the euro area here. This article explores cross-country differences within the European Union.

Point-of-Sale (POS) Transactions

Graph 1. Euro Area: Share of Payment Instruments in Point-of-Sale (POS) Transactions, 2022

1. By Number of Transactions2. By Value of TransactionsSource: ECB (2022: 19).

Person-to-Person (P2P) Payments

Graph 2. Euro Area: Share of Payment Instruments used for P2P Payments, 2022

1. By Number of Transactions

2. By Value of Transactions

Source: ECB (2022: 26).

Cash Use

The use of cash declined in the euro area in 2022 compared with 2019 (see Map 1).

Map 1. Euro Area: Change in the Share of Cash Use in POS Transaction, 2019-2022

1. By Number of Transactions

2. By Value of Transactions

Source: ECB (2022: 20-21).

Cash Holdings

On average, people in the euro area had €83 in their wallets in 2022. Respondents in Austria, Luxemburg, Cyprus, Lithuania, Ireland, and Estonia reported having cash holdings of over €100 (see Graph 3). Respondents in the Netherlands (€46), Portugal (€53), and France (€61) had the lowest cash holdings.

Graph 3. Euro Area: Average Amount of Cash in Wallet at the Beginning of the Day, 2022Source: ECB (2022: 45).

Regarding the precautionary demand for cash, people in the euro area kept higher cash reserves in 2022 (37%) compared to 2019 (34%) due to the Covid-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and consumers’ budgeting practices.

Graph 4. Euro Area: Share of Consumers Keeping Extra Cash Reserves, 2022

Source: ECB (2022: 46).

While most people (85%) in the euro area received no share of regular income in cash in 2022, 6-7% of people in Latvia, Italy, Austria, Spain, Slovakia, and Ireland reported receiving up to a quarter of their income in cash; that figure increased to 11% in Greece (see Graph 5).

Graph 5. Euro Area: Share of Regular Income Received in Cash, 2022

Source: ECB (2022: 46).

Access to Cash

As Graph 6 shows, obtaining cash from ATMs worsened the most between 2019 and 2022 in Belgium (12%), the Netherlands (7%), Luxemburg (7%), Cyprus (6%), and Spain (4%). The share of respondents perceiving access to cash withdrawals to be difficult decreased the most in Malta (6%), Estonia (4%), and Slovenia (4%).

Graph 6. Euro Area: Share of Respondents Perceiving Access to Cash Withdrawals to Be Fairly or Very Difficult, 2022

Source: ECB (2022: 49).

The highest shares of respondents preferring to obtain cash by the source of withdrawals (Graph 7) were

Graph 7. Euro Area: Sources of Cash Withdrawals, 2022

Source: ECB (2022: 50).

While fees for cash withdrawals vary across countries (see Graph 8), significant shares of respondents in Ireland (24%), Belgium (14%), Slovakia (10%), Estonia (10%), and Slovenia (9%) reported they always paid a fee when withdrawing cash, pointing to problems in the access of cash.

Graph 8. Euro Area: Share of Respondents Likely to Pay Fees for Cash Withdrawals, 2022

Source: ECB (2022: 50).

Payment Preferences

Across the euro area, 22% of respondents preferred paying with cash in 2022, down from 27% in 2019. By country (Graph 9):

Graph 9. Euro Area: Preferred Payment Instrument by Country, 2022

Source: ECB (2022: 41).

The preference for cash between 2019 and 2022 (Graph 10) increased the most in Belgium (9%), Estonia (7%), France (5%), and Austria (3%). It declined the most in Cyprus (-25%), Germany (-13%), Malta (-11%), Latvia, and Italy (both with -10%).

Graph 10. Euro Area: Preferences for Cash, 2019-2022

Source: ECB (2022: 41).

Payment Choice

Most people (60%) in the euro area consider having the option to pay with cash very or fairly important (Graph 11). Support was more robust in Germany (69%), Greece (69%), and Austria (66%). Having a cash option was also crucial for pluralities in Slovakia (46%), the Netherlands (46%), and Estonia (47%).

Graph 11. Euro Area: Importance of Having Cash as a Payment Option, 2022

Source: ECB (2022: 39).

This post is also available in: Spanish