Insights into euro area statistics. Presenting statistics with short explanations, in an easy-to-share format

Today, Europeans are most likely to reach for a card when they want to make a payment without using cash. While the number of card transactions in the euro area has more than doubled in the last decade, the average value of each transaction has fallen.

27 September 2019

Consumers and businesses in the euro area use a wide variety of payment methods. In 2018 card payments accounted for almost half of the total number of non-cash payments across the single-currency area.

Credit transfers and direct debits were the second and third most common non-cash payment methods, accounting for approximately 23% each, while e-money and cheques together made up around 7%.

However, the relative popularity of each type of payment service still varies widely across euro area countries. In 2018 card payments accounted for just over 70% of all non‑cash payments in Portugal, compared with around 23% in Germany.

Credit transfers are particularly popular in Slovakia, accounting for almost 44% of the total number of non-cash payments in 2018, compared with just 2.4% in Luxembourg.

Cheques have fallen in popularity over the last decade, accounting for a mere 2.3% of total non-cash payments in 2018, compared with 8% in 2008. One country – France – accounted for almost 85% of all the cheques that were written in the euro area in 2018.

Figure 1. Share of total number of non-cash payments per payment method, 2008 and 2018 (Percentages)

The number of card payments made by consumers and businesses has more than doubled in the last decade, with an average of 121 card payments per capita in 2018, compared with 56 in 2008. However, the average value of each card payment has declined steadily, falling from €54 in 2008 to €44 in 2018.

Here, too, there are large differences between countries, though. While people living in Finland made an average of 332 card payments per capitain 2018, the people of Germany, Greece and Italy averaged just 64, 59 and 53 card payments per capita respectively.

In other words, people in Finland used their cards five times more often than people living in Germany and six times more often than people in Italy.

The average value of each card payment ranges from around €17 in Latvia to €70 in Cyprus. The interactive charts below provide data for each euro area country.

Figure 2. Average number of card payments per capita, 2008-18 (annual data)

     Figure 3. Average value of each card payment, 2008-18 (EUR; annual data)

Meanwhile, the average value of annual cash withdrawals in the euro area rose from €1,925 to €2,082 per card between 2008 and 2018.

Most countries experienced a similar trend, but with considerable differences in the value of withdrawals. For instance, the average annual cash withdrawal per card in Austria was almost four times the size of the equivalent figure for Luxembourg and almost twice the euro area average.

Figure 4. Average value of automated teller machine (ATM) cash withdrawals per card (EUR; annual data)

Payments statistics record the number and value of payment transactions for each type of payment instrument and service in Europe. They give insights into the payment habits of European citizens and the activities of EU-based financial market infrastructures.

A payment transaction is an act of placing, transferring or withdrawing funds involving two actors: the payer (who sends the money) and the payee (who receives the money). A payment service is any service that enables the execution of payment transactions. Any device or set of procedures used for payment transactions is a payment instrument. Providers of payment services (such as banks) are classified by the Payment Services Directive as payment service providers (PSPs).

In this Insight, we refer to the total number of non-cash payments in the euro area, comprising all payment service types. These include credit transfers, direct debits, card payments with cards issued by resident PSPs, e-money payments, cheques and other payment services involving non-MFIs. (Non-MFIs are natural or legal persons outside the monetary financial institutions (MFI) sector. For the purpose of payments statistics, the non-MFI sector excludes all PSPs.)

A credit transfer is a payment initiated by the payer. The payer sends a payment instruction to his/her payment service provider (PSP), e.g. a bank. The payer’s PSP moves the funds to the payee’s PSP. This can be carried out via several intermediaries. The relevant statistics record credits on the payer’s side. These include SEPA and non-SEPA transactions (see below), credit transfers performed via automated teller machines (ATMs), credit transfers involving cash at one or both ends of the payment transaction (e.g. money and postal orders), and credit transfers used to settle outstanding balances of transactions using cards with a credit or delayed debit function. The data do not include credits to the account of a customer by simple book entry without the use of a traditional credit transfer instrument (e.g. dividend or interest payments by the account-holding bank) and cash payments into an account using a bank form.

A direct debit is a transfer initiated by the payee via his/her payment service provider. Direct debits are often used for recurring payments, such as utility bills. They require a pre-authorisation (or “mandate”) from the payer. Direct debits are also used for one-off payments. In this case, the payer authorises the payee to initiate an individual payment. In the statistics, these payments are counted on the payee’s side. Data include SEPA and non-SEPA transactions (see below), one-off and recurrent transactions, and direct debits used to settle outstanding balances of transactions using cards with a credit or delayed debit function. Direct debits resulting from the settlement of an individual card transaction should not be reported in order to avoid double-counting. Cash payments from an account using a bank form are not included

Electronic money (or e-money) is a monetary value stored on an electronic device and accepted as a means of payment by undertakings other than the issuer. E-money can be either hardware-based (e.g. stored on a card) or software-based (i.e. stored on a computer server). Only transactions with cards or storage systems issued by resident PSPs are reported; transactions are included irrespective of whether they took place within or outside the country of issue.

Payment cards are devices that can be used by their holders to pay for goods and services or to withdraw money at ATMs. They are issued by a card scheme as agreed with the card issuing PSP, which defines their exact functions (e.g. debit, delayed debit, credit, e-money). Card payments are transactions performed using cards with a debit, credit or delayed debit function at a point-of-sale (POS) terminal or via other channels. The statistics report payment transactions with cards issued by resident PSPs, regardless of the country of the card scheme under which the payment transaction was made. Card payments by telephone and online are included. Thus, these statistics do not include card payments with an e-money function only, credit transfers at ATMs, cash advances at POS terminals and payments with cards issued by merchants (retailer cards), except where the retailer card was issued in cooperation with a PSP (co-branded).

A cheque is a written order from one party (the drawer) to another (the drawee; normally a credit institution) requiring the drawee to pay a specified sum on demand to the drawer or a third party specified by the drawer. In the statistics, cheques are counted on the payee’s side (the drawer or the specified third party) when submitted for cheque clearing. These statistics include cash withdrawals with cheques, but do not include cash withdrawals using bank forms or cheques issued but not submitted for clearing.

Other services refer to payment services that cannot be included in any other category (e.g. bills of exchange).

Automated teller machines (ATM) cash withdrawals include cash withdrawals from ATMs using a card with a cash function. The statistics include cash advances at POS terminals using a card with a debit, credit or delayed debit function only if not connected to a payment transaction.

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is the harmonised way we make and process retail payments in euro. It makes payments in euro and across Europe as fast, safe and efficient as national payments are today. SEPA enables customers to make cashless euro payments to anyone located anywhere in Europe, for example by credit transfer, direct debit or debit card.

The statistics referred to here are annual ESCB payments statistics that can be obtained from the ECB’s Statistical Data Warehouse (SDW) using the code listed in the section headed References.

Find out more about payments statistics:

Payment services and large-value and retail payment systems

Payments statistics press release (2018)

Harmonised statistics on payment services in the Single Euro Payments Area

Payments, securities and derivatives, and the role of the Eurosystem

Methodological notes on the collection of payments statistics in the ECB Statistical Data Warehouse

A glossary of terms used in payments and settlement systems (BIS)

SEPA – Single Euro Payments Area

Payments statistics in the ECB Statistical Data Warehouse:

Shares of total payments involving non-MFIs can be found by using the following codes:

·        share of card payments issued by resident payment service providers  PSS.A.*.F000.I1A.Z00Z.NP.X0.20.Z0Z.Z

·        share of credit transfers PSS.A.*.F000.I31.Z00Z.NP.X0.20.Z0Z.Z

·        share of direct debits PSS.A.*.F000.I34.Z00Z.NP.X0.20.Z0Z.Z

·        share of cheques PSS.A.*.F000.I35.Z00Z.NP.X0.20.Z0Z.Z

·        share of e-money PSS.A.*.F000.IEM.Z00Z.NP.X0.20.Z0Z.Z

·        share of other payment services PSS.A.*.F000.I37.Z00Z.NP.X0.20.Z0Z.Z

·        Average number of card payments per capita can be found using the code PSS.A.*.F000.I1A.Z00Z.NC.X0.20.Z0Z.Z

·        Average value of card payments can be found using the code PSS.A.*.F000.I1A.Z00Z.VA.X0.20.Z01.E

·        Value of ATM cash withdrawals per card can be found using the code PSS.A.*.F100.I10.I111.VD.X0.20.Z01.E