Is Germany falling out of love with cash?

29 Sep 2021

It’s not happened overnight, and the trend has undoubtedly been fuelled by the coronavirus crisis, but a recent survey has revealed that the majority of consumers in Germany prefer to pay by card rather than cash. The shift towards cashless looks set to continue, and may well become a permanent fixture, as per the findings from the poll by Frankfurt-based Euro Card System Institution.
The survey revealed 47% of the 1,200 consumers polled in June this year said they preferred to pay by giro card at points of sale, whilst 13% opted for credit cards and 10% by a different method of payment. Although 45% said they preferred cash, half said coins and notes were far less important to them now than a decade ago due to the number of alternative payment means available. In addition, 33% said they now hold less cash than they did 10 years ago.


Pandemic-fuelled shift to cashless in Germany

The Euro Card System Institution survey is another indication that an increasing number of people are choosing to move away from cash and embrace digital. Naturally, following the outbreak of the pandemic, hygiene fears relating to handling notes and coins led more and more people to opt for digital payments, which accelerated further when the government increased the contactless payment limit to €50. 
A similar move was announced in the UK in August. As from 15 October, consumers will be able to spend as much as £100 using contactless card payments. The limit was previously increased from £30 to £45 following the onset of the Covid crisis. 
In September last year, another Euromonitor survey forecast that card payments would outstrip cash payments “for the first time in history” in 2020, a trend that has continued this year. A total of 2.71 million giro card transactions were made in the first six months of this year according to Euro Card Systems, a 4.7% rise than the same time last year.
Out of the 350 retailers questioned within the survey, two thirds also noted they had seen a rise in contactless payments – either using a card or smartphone – since the pandemic.


“Nobody should be forced to carry cash with them all the time”

These findings were echoed by another survey undertaken by the Bitkom digital association, which found that a total of 74% of consumers in Germany want to have the option of making digital payments at all shops, restaurants and retail outlets. This figure rises to 87% among consumers between 18 and 29 years of age.
The survey revealed 75% of Germans aged between 30 and 40 endorsed universally available cashless payment options at points of sale, along with 76% of people between 50 and 64, and “even among senior citizens aged 65 and over, a clear majority of 64% is in favour”.
Bitkom director Bernhard Rohleder said of the survey results: “We need real freedom of choice when paying. It’s not about getting rid of cash, but leaving customers free to decide how they want to pay at any location. Nobody should be forced to carry cash with them all the time.”
The survey was carried out in August this year, featuring 1,000 consumers in Germany over the age of 18.