Payment behaviour in Germany in 2023 Cash remains most frequently used means of payment at the point of sale; card and mobile payments gaining ground

One-half of all transactions in Germany in 2023 were settled using banknotes and coins. At the same time, the prevalence of cashless payment methods increased ever further, according to the Bundesbank’s latest study on payment behaviour in Germany, which is for 2023. 

The trend of declining cash use continued. Compared with the 2021 study, the share of payments settled in cash sank from 58% to 51%. Although this decline is no longer as pronounced as during the coronavirus pandemic, the share of cash payments is falling faster than in previous years, said Executive Board Member Burkhard Balz. According to the latest study, debit cards were used in 27% of payments. They were the second most frequently used means of payment, recording a significant rise of 5 percentage points relative to 2021. The share of mobile payments also increased sharply, albeit from a low starting point. The proportion of transactions made up by mobile payments trebled, rising to 6%. We can see that people have only partially reverted to their old payment habits, Mr Balz continued. 

Measured in terms of turnover, debit card payments accounted for 32% of total expenditure, placing them firmly in first place, followed in second place by cash (26%) ahead of credit transfers and e-payment methods such as PayPal, Klarna and giropay. Consumers mainly preferred to settle larger amounts by debit card. However, even smaller amounts are now being settled more frequently using cashless means of payment, Mr Balz explained. 

Cashless means of payment becoming more popular

The increasing share of transactions and turnover accounted for by cashless means of payment was reflected in respondents’ personal preferences, which shifted in favour of cashless payments. Given the choice, 44% of respondents stated that they would rather pay without using cash – 3 percentage points more than two years previously. At 28%, the proportion of respondents citing cash as their preferred means of payment was similar to 2021’s figure. A further 28% had no preference. Relative to 2021, more respondents deemed the protection of privacy to be a benefit of cash. Cards and other cashless means of payment, on the other hand, scored highly on simplicity and speed.

The fact that the acceptance of cashless means of payment has grown further since 2021 is likely to have contributed to this. For 80% of all payments in physical locations, it was possible to pay by card or smartphone – an increase of 20 percentage points on 2021. However, the study also shows that there is still room for improvement with regard to the acceptance of cashless means of payment in stores. Almost one-fifth of respondents indicated that they had not been able to pay by card or with a mobile device in a store, Mr Balz said. 

Access to cash more difficult

Acceptance of cash decreased slightly compared with 2021, but remained at a very high level. The share of transactions at the point of sale where respondents reported that it would have been possible to pay in cash was 94%, down from a figure just shy of 97% in 2021. When it comes to retail outlets for day-to-day purchases, cash payment is still possible in almost all cases (98%). By contrast, there is now no longer full acceptance of cash in stores for durable goods, in restaurants and cafés and at petrol stations. 

People are also finding it increasingly more difficult to access cash. The share of respondents who considered it fairly difficult or very difficult to get to an ATM or bank counter rose to 15% from 6% in 2021. This trend could be seen in both urban and rural areas. 

Majority of respondents would like to keep using cash in the future

The study revealed that a majority of respondents would like to carry on being able to use cash in the future. At the same time, many people expect cash use to decline sharply in the long term. Looking ahead 15 years, around two-thirds of respondents would like to use cash as they have done to date. However, almost half of the respondents expected cash to have almost disappeared from everyday life by then, with 7% expecting cash to have been abolished in 15 years’ time. Mr Balz gave his assurance that the Bundesbank and the other Eurosystem central banks are working hard to keep cash available as a cost-effective and efficient means of payment in the future, adding that cash is and remains our core physical product.

Background to the study

The Bundesbank has been regularly conducting detailed studies on the use of payment instruments since back in 2008. For the 2023 study, market research institute forsa surveyed approximately 5,700 randomly selected members of the public aged 18 and over by telephone between the start of September and the end of November 2023 on behalf of the Bundesbank. Respondents were also asked to keep a diary of their payment habits for three days. The diary is designed to cover actively initiated one-off payments, such as cash payments when shopping at the supermarket or credit card payments at a restaurant. Recurring payments such as rent, insurance contributions and electricity and gas bills are not included, as these are usually always paid by direct debit. In total, around 5,700 questionnaires and more than 4,000 payment diaries were evaluated. Over 15,000 transactions with a turnover of more than €660,000 were recorded in the payment diaries.