Touchless payment in a shop ©Tylor Olsen / Adobe Stock

Making payments in 2020, the year of COVID-19: card-based and contactless payments trending

Many citizens have been increasingly using cards to make payments during the coronavirus pandemic. “According to a representative Bundesbank survey in 2020, the importance of cashless payment methods, especially cards, in everyday expenditures has been growing considerably,” said Burkhard Balz, the member of the Bundesbank Executive Board responsible for cashless payments.

According to the survey, last year 30% of purchases made at the point of sale, for recreation activities and in online commerce were paid for using a card. In 2017, it was only 21%. At the same time, the number of consumers paying cash for their purchases is dwindling. Only 60% of all purchases were paid for in cash in 2020, as against as much as 74% three years ago.

Contactless payments trending

According to the study, contactless card payments are increasingly becoming the norm. Contactless card payments now make up a little more than half of all girocard or credit card transactions. “More than one-fifth of the respondents who made contactless payments tried this out for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic,” Mr Balz noted. Around half of the respondents said this was because of information in stores or better hygiene. It was particularly persons over the age of 55 and women who used contactless methods relatively frequently for making payments.

Few payments by smartphone

Unlike contactless card payments, payments using a smartphone have not taken root among the general public. According to the survey, on average only 13% of the surveyed owners of smartphones stated that they had used their devices to make payments at the point of sale. 70% of customers not making mobile payments saw no need. Many regarded mobile payments as too unsafe or too complicated. It was particularly younger persons under 34 years of age who were more receptive to the new technology and were already using smartphones relatively frequently for making payments. 

Current account still very popular

At the same time, the current account remains pivotal to the handling of payments in Germany: 99% of survey respondents had a current account. Of these, 79% do their banking business online, and of these, 76% via their bank’s website and 48% using their bank’s app. Third-party online banking apps are still a niche product.

Background of the survey

Since 2008, the Bundesbank has been regularly conducting detailed studies on the use of payment instruments. For the 2020 survey, from August to October a random, representative sample of 5,022 citizens were polled by telephone and online questionnaire. They then kept a diary for one or three days in which they documented their payment habits. Unlike in previous years, the coronavirus pandemic made in-person interviews impossible this time around.