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France: Cash Remains King

Categories : Cash is available to all users, Cash is the first step of financial inclusion, Cash is the most widely used payment instrument
August 30, 2023
Tags : Cash, Digital payments, Europe, Financial inclusion, France
Cash remains the most used payment instrument in France. It has become even more popular, despite the proliferation of digital payments.
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

Guillaume Lepecq

Chair, CashEssentials

This post is also available in: Spanish

A Banque de France (BdF) report examines the persistence of cash usage in France, using evidence from the European Central Bank’s (ECB) 2022 SPACE study and other data. Its authors, researchers from the BdF Cash and Retail Payments Oversight Directorate, found that “cash remains the most widely used means of payment in France (and in the Eurosystem) at points of sale.” (Des Beauvais, Bayol, Laplace, Araujo, Valdés-Curien 2023: 1).

Cash Remains the Most Widely Used Means of Payment

Graph 1. France and the Euro-Area: Means of Payment at Point of Sale by Transaction Volume, 2016-2022

Source: Des Beauvais, Bayol, Laplace, Araujo, Valdés-Curien (2023: 3).

Digital Payments in France

Payment cards are the most used cashless payment method in France. As of 2022, they represented 59.6% of 31 billion cashless transactions. Most card payments are contactless (57% in 2021 and 61% in 2022), while 6% were with mobile wallets.

Graph 2. France: Use of Cashless Payment Instruments, 2022

Note: Paiement carte – payment card; retrait carte – card withdrawal; prélèvement – direct debit; Virement – bank transfer; chèque – cheque.
Source: BdF (2023: 12)

Cash Becomes Even More Popular

Graph 3. France and the Euro-Area: Payment Preferences, 2016-2022

Source: Des Beauvais, Bayol, Laplace, Araujo, Valdés-Curien (2023: 5).

French consumers value cash the most as cash protects their privacy and offers immediate settlement (43% of respondents, see Graph 4). They also cited cash as a payment instrument facilitating budgeting (31%) and general acceptance (28%).

Graph 4. France: Reasons for Preferring Cash, 2022

Source: Des Beauvais, Bayol, Laplace, Araujo, Valdés-Curien (2023: 5).

Per the ECB’s 2022 survey of cash usage by companies in retail, the restaurant industry, tourism, culture, and entertainment, only 12% of French companies reported cash was their preferred payment instrument. However, cash was more popular due to management costs, reliability, and quick settlement.

The researchers found that cash usage increases with age (older consumers prefer cash). While gender and occupation did not influence consumers’ cash usage, women tend to pay mainly with cards. The type of purchase and amount play a more significant role in using cash. (Des Beauvais, Bayol, Laplace, Araujo, Valdés-Curien 2023: 6, 12).

Access to Cash

Cash and Budgetary Vulnerability

Per a BdF survey on the payment habits of “budgetary vulnerable” people conducted between December 2021 and 2021, people in financially vulnerable situations are 18% likelier to use cash. While primarily using cash in daily transactions, they still reported cards as their preferred payment instrument.

Close to 75% of respondents said they obtain cash through ATM withdrawals. Financially vulnerable individuals tend to withdraw less than €50 and make no more than two monthly withdrawals. They also reported difficulty accessing cash at double the rate (16%) than the overall population (8%).


This post is also available in: Spanish