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What is the preferred payment method in Europe?

Over the past few years, many consumers and businesses have used multiple payment methods beyond a single card and cash. This has been powered by consumer demand and is expected to continue in Europe for both online and offline sales.

​In a recent survey done by Payments Europe, which was completed by 3,120 consumers in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the UK and by 680 retailers in the same countries, it was revealed that cards are the most used non-cash payment method, amounting to 52% of all non-cash transactions in the EU, while credit transfers accounted for 24% and direct debits for 19%.

Apart from the fact that cards have proved to be the most popular payment method with consumers and retailers, other key takeaways from the survey are:

  • the European payment market has profoundly evolved
  • consumers and retailers find significant benefits in card payments
  • retailers believe that the value of cards outweighs the costs
  • consumers still trust traditional institutions the most with their data and money.

Below are the takeaways in more detail.

The evolution of European market from cash to cards

Over the past few years, many consumers and businesses have acquired access to multiple payment methods beyond a single card, money and check. This has been powered by consumer demand and is expected to continue in Europe for both online and offline sales.

To this end, new forms of payment are emerging across the EU, opening up more possibilities within the market.

Consumers estimate that they use cards for around half of their purchases in stores, with other payment methods such as cash and apps fintech making up the remainder. The digital revolution is also marked by hybrids that most business experts may not have expected to encounter, with one such being the fact that many people will visit an online retailer, make their purchases using the site's shopping cart but instead of paying with, say PayPal, they will do so with their credit or debit card. This "behaviour oxymoron", as experts call it, is another clear sign that payment cards still have a future ahead of them.

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It is also the reason several top fintechs, including Apple and Revolut, have pivoted from their previous digital-only strategies into creating payment cards of their own with Apple's Apple Card recently marking the company's sure-to-be-significant partnership with Mastercard. Both cards are made as the "backup" option since not everyone has contacless terminals.

Cards as the top payment method for consumers and retailers

One of the most important facts revealed by the survey was that 61% of retailers said that card payments are the most convenient method of payment.

Cards scored very high when it came to the question of security and fraud. 75% of consumers are aware that their money will be reimbursed in such an event.

31% of retailers believe that the reduction in risk of fraud is the most significant benefit brought by card payments.

More specifically, retailers in France (40%) Italy (44%) and Poland (41%) consider cards to be a strong tool against fraud, while "Germany and Sweden put a lot more weight on fintech (19% and 17% respectively, considerably more than in the others)", according to Payments Europe.

When it comes to cost and value, 91% of retailers believe that the benefits outweigh the cost of card payments outweigh the costs seeing that retailers estimated that accepting cash and time spent to deposit and manage cash has a higher cost financially and time-wise.

Future of payment cards

Taking all this into account, we can say that, as far as the payment card's future goes, the prognosis looks bright. Even though it's easy to equate the card with the check – due to its age and long-time ubiquity – cards have time and again shown they are more than capable of holding their own in the digital age.

Here's our expert's opinion:

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