Study: Cash is the most commonly used means of payment in Germany

Measured in terms of all purchases made, such as retail purchases of everyday items, services and internet trading, cash is, on average, the most commonly used method of payment in Germany. Cash is also likely to maintain this role in future. This was revealed by the study on “Payment behaviour in Germany”, which was published today by the Bundesbank in Frankfurt am Main.

Dr Thilo Sarrazin, the Executive Board member responsible for Cash Management, said that “When deciding on the method of payment to be used, members of the German general public attach the greatest importance to protection against financial loss, acceptance in retails outlets and cost”. Use for online payments and when travelling abroad, or discount and bonus schemes are less relevant for the users, however. With regard to the criterion of protection against loss, the “girocard” (previously “EC cash card”) holds the leading position, while credit cards are the most popular means of payment online. Nevertheless, cash recorded the best results in all other areas..

Amount to be paid determines the choice of payment instrument

The majority of those surveyed stated that how they chose to pay was determined by the amount of cash they had available to them and the amount to be paid. Measured by the value of the transactions, cash accounts for a share of 57.9%, girocards for 25.5% and credit cards for 3.6% of all purchases. In terms of the number of transactions, cash accounts for a share of 82.5%, with girocards and credit cards accounting for 11.9% and 1.4% respectively. This is due to the fact that mainly small and medium-sized payment amounts are paid in cash.

The amount of payments settled in cash by very young and elderly persons (under 25 and above 55 years of age) is higher than the average. Furthermore, the percentage of cash payments is higher, the lower income is. The percentage of cash payments is higher in western Germany than in eastern Germany. This is mirrored by the percentage of cashless payments, especially girocard payments.

People carry an average of €118 with them in cash

On average, each of the persons surveyed carried cash to the value of €118 with them, €6.70 of which were coins; 91% of those surveyed own at least one girocard and 27% possess a credit card.

No change in payment behaviour to be expected in the short term

According to the study, it is to be expected that cash will continue to play the leading role as a payment instrument in the future. Bundesbank Executive Board member Sarrazin said that “It is unlikely that cashless payment instruments will significantly displace cash in the short term. A tight-knit nationwide network for obtaining cash, such as ATMs, is, furthermore, promoting the use of cash”, he said. “It is possible that there will be a further slight decline in the share of cash payments in the medium to long term”, he added. In the estimation of Bundesbank experts, the cash substitution process could be accelerated if internet trading continues to grow.

The Bundesbank does not expect innovative payment procedures, such as payment by mobile phone or by fingerprint recognition, to be a runaway success in the near future. This would require nationwide acceptance by retailers and the general public. The opportunities for a range of new cashless payment procedures are being improved by the creation of the “Single Euro Payments Area” (SEPA).

Over 2,000 persons were surveyed for the study. Each surveyee was asked to complete a questionnaire and to keep a “payments diary”.The complete results of the study (german only), together with a summary and background information may be found on our website.