How people pay in Europe

In our omnichannel world, digital payment methods are becoming increasingly more important. But the range of options is diverse – and Europeans' payment habits differ greatly in some cases. Which trends point the way to the future?  

If you are traveling to Stockholm, you can leave your cash at home without worrying. It is much more important to pack your credit card. Because many hotel rooms and even the rolls at the bakery are no longer available for cash. In Swedish churches, worshippers even donate to the collection cash-free – using Swish. The app has enabled real-time transfers since 2012 and is now used by the majority of the population.[1] 


In Denmark and the Netherlands, too, electronic payment is more popular than cash. For many Danes, the Swish counterpart MobilePay has become an indispensable part of everyday life. In the Netherlands, two-thirds of all cell phone users already use mobile banking.[2] What's more, the Dutch are European champions when it comes to contactless payment with wearables: in no other European country a smartwatch or fitness wristband is placed on the card reader as often.[3] 


In many other parts of Europe, consumers are also increasingly whipping out their mobiles to pay. Especially young people like it fast and convenient. In Spain, which has the most cash machines in Europe, the Bizum app is gaining ground. And with transactions tripling every year, the popularity of BLIK is growing rapidly in Poland. 


Italians love the convenience that cards offer.[4] Nevertheless, the Jiffy service for paying, sending and receiving payments via smartphone already has over five million fans.[5] In Germany, on the other hand, cash is still king. It is still used for almost 75 percent of all payment transactions. But the number of "adventurous youths" who are reaching for their smartphones instead of their wallets is rising fast.[6]


GLS is adapting to current trends and national preferences. For example, Polish parcel recipients can pay for cash on delivery shipments with BLIK. In Spain, tests are underway for payment with Bizum. Another example: In Hungary and Slovakia, GLS offers card payment at the delivery driver.



[2]Emerging Payments Association, 2020 Report

[3]Mastercard 2019, Q3

[4]Emerging Payments Association, 2020 Report


[6]Emerging Payments Association, 2020 Report

New “payment experience”


For many years now, the success of the e-commerce has been transforming commerce and has made credit cards or other electronic payment methods indispensable. Technological advances, especially the spread of mobile devices, are boosting this development. Most recently, Covid-19 has further increased the demand for contactless payment options in local retail. 


Card payments still dominate in Europe, with bank cards replacing cash payments faster than ever before. However, apps such as Google Pay, Apple Pay or corresponding services from banks could become trendsetting for electronic payment – both at the counter and for online shopping. They have started to replace cards and are moving from the niche to mainstream.


E-commerce payment: choice makes the difference


Online shoppers increasingly expect to be able to pay according to their preferences – whether by invoice, credit or debit card, PayPal, app or instant transfer from their bank. If this is not possible, up to 50 percent abandon the order process, according to a study.[1] This makes it all the more important for international retailers to offer the payment methods preferred in the respective countries.


[1]The Paypers: Payment Methods Report 2019

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