Cash Fights Back: Use of Cash on the Rise in Europe

With credit cards being around for quite a long time and the expansion of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, you’d think people are quitting cash altogether. Surprisingly, in Europe and some parts of the EMEA market, the opposite is true. In the battle of cash vs. credit card, cash seems to be winning - the use of cash is actually on the rise, creating a need for better cash flow management to provide safety for many countries and businesses.

Over three-quarters of POS transactions actually use cash for payment, even though there are more and more options consumers can choose from. Does that mean that cash will forever be king? We don’t know for sure, but what is certain is that people are using a mix of payment methods. This doesn’t make either payment option obsolete, not cash, not crypto, not credit cards.

With the economy in Europe fortunately improving, the rate of total cash volume used is growing at an estimated compound rate 28.8 percent a year in Eastern Europe and 0.3 percent yearly in Western Europe.

In Western Europe, the greatest cash circulation was recorded in Austria with cash being used as the preferred payment method by 35 percent and in Eastern Europe, Lithuania takes the cake with an astounding 82 percent share.

The silver goes to Croatia, with cash being used as a payment method in 71 transactions.

Countries in Western and Eastern Europe spend 3.7 trillion EUR in cash in 2016.

Austria also has the biggest ATM penetration per person with 156 ATM’s being available per 100 000 people, as contrasted by Sweden - who only has 32 ATMs per 100 000 people.

Even though cash is the preferred payment method of many, it is getting more and more competition with many digital and contactless payment methods being available. Still, for some reason, possibly habit or feeling safer around physical banknotes, cash is the way people go when dealing with their everyday transactions.

Here is more interesting data:

  • There was a 13 percent growth in cash circulation yearly in the EU since 2002.

  • 2.9 billion EUR increase in the value of cash in circulation since 2009

  • It is expected for cash growth to plateau in the following years, but not decrease

  • For comparison, only 19 percent of point of sale transactions were handled by cards - 79 percent were handled by cash.


There is definitely a divide between countries - Southern European countries used cash in 80 percent of their point of sale transactions, while Northern countries like Estonia, Netherlands, and Finland only used them in 50 percent of their daily POS (data from 2016).

Interestingly enough, men like using cash more than women do and so do older generations.

There was no difference in the level of education found between those who used cash more and it was shown that people still find cash the safest - 80 percent of Europeans kept some cash at home “just in case”.


The U.K.

Cash circulation went up an astonishing 10 percent in the U.K. alone. The value of all coins and banknotes reached 83 billion pounds in 2017, which is 1200 pounds for every person, including children, in the U.K.

According to the Bank of England, that is the biggest growth recorded in the last 10 years! The average English person has 77 pounds in their wallet, purse, pocket and at home. Mattresses in the U.K. also seem to be stuffed with precautionary savings of money, with most of them being 20-pound bills. After the economic crisis, but also Brexit, people are saving some money for rainy days - could it be that hard times call for hard cash?


Even though this country is an economic powerhouse, Germans seem to be pretty old-fashioned, with their cash share being the 6th largest in Western Europe - Germany’s cash share is a whopping 20 percent. The wallet of an average German Joe contains 103 physical euros and cash is used in about 80 percent of German point of sale transactions. It’s actually pretty astounding that Germany, who is in a true sense an economic vanguard still much prefers cash over any form of contactless or digital way of paying, considering all other equally advanced countries are going cashless.


When it comes to picking a method of payment, it’s safe to say Lithuania has an almost monogamous relationship with cold hard cash. The use of cash is on the rise, as it is in other Eastern European countries as well, and it is even speculated that in between 2015 and 2020, there will be a $300 billion increase in the amount of cash in this market. This gorgeous baltic country definitely leads the way in total cash spending as a share of its GDP. The cash share here is a whopping 86.5 percent, and while mobile wallets are used by some tech-savvy Lithuanians, they are still an almost insignificant portion of the population. There are 1,170 ATMs in this country and the high cash dependency can perhaps best be explained by the fact that most Lithuanians still live and work in rural areas.


Lithuania’s runner upper in Eastern European love of cash is the popular summer destination, Croatia. This lovely Adriatic country has a cash share of 71 percent, so their cash use is still 15 percent less than Lithuania’s, but even so, it’s pretty high. With the rise of cash use in this country, be sure not to rely too heavily on your credit card while vacationing there!


There were 194 billion euros spent in cash in 2015 alone, with only 45.53 billion being spent on credit or debit cards in Poland.

Polish people still rely mostly on cash when paying for their daily expenses and spent 5 euros in cash for every euro spent via credit or debit cards. There has been an incredible 289 percent increase in number of ATMs since the turn of the century, with Poland having about 20,531 ATMs in 2015. Roughly speaking, there are only 4 million users of mobile banking in this country that has a population of almost 40 million people.



The contrast in cash use is large in Europe, with Scandinavian countries going cashless, and Sweden leading the way. No High Street banks around Stockholm's beautiful Odenplan square handle cash now, and the countries largest coffee chain only accepts smartphone made payments. Less than 25 percent Swedes use cash weekly and a rise in mobile, card and online payments have resulted in the proportion of cash transactions in the retail sector falling from around 40% in 2010 to 15% today, as reported by Sweden’s national bank.


The banking system in the Netherlands plans to deliver a cashless infrastructure by 2019 and it is believed that contactless payments have the potential to become the new normal in the near future. The Dutch are aiming to achieve 60 percent of POS transactions to be made in cards this year!


There has been a 35 percent decrease in the number of bank branches and a 14 percent reduction in the number of ATMs in Finland since 2010, which goes to say that this country is really embracing the goal of becoming a cashless society by 2029. They are also embracing contactless technology with the total billed volume made on contactless cards in 2015 surged 667 percent and the number of transactions increased by 720 percent and reached 29 million.

It is still interesting to note that many countries are going cashless outside Europe as well, but Scandinavia is for sure leading the way.

For many, going cashless is simply cleaner and more importantly, TRACKABLE AND SAFER. But is cash inherently unsafe?

With the development of new technology, not necessarily. More countries are starting to use cash recycling trays - machines used to authenticate incoming bank notes and safe storage of the money in an internal vault providing automated cash transactions for the tellers from the inventory, including deposits and withdrawals.

Cash recycling trays are usually located in financial institutions and they are used to directly integrate with the teller transaction software. For a deposit, bank notes are placed into the input bin, the cash than travels inside the machine, where sensors count and evaluate the notes for authenticity and denomination and unfit or counterfeit cash is returned into the reject bin, while the rest is safely stored.


Secur-Safe is an innovative cash recycling tray made to be installed inside the Point of Sale register and connected to the client’s management software suite or the cash register.

This Italian product offers an integrated solution, hardware and software services, making cash safer by scanning, managing and collecting any physical currency that is received.

SecureSafe offers real-time monitoring of cash takings, allowing users to gather information on performance indicators and enhance Point of Sale profitability.

It is a safe, customizable, innovative and clever cash management system. SecurSafe offers users to check takings, store cash safely, monitor cash flows, reduce insurance costs, while deposit operations are streamlined without the use of night safes or going to the bank.

So, is cash the enemy? No, not really - there is always room for improvement in any technology and SecurSafe offers solutions that can improve the future of banknote safety.

Cash flow management is still a very lucrative business, especially when you integrate new and innovative ways of handling it - share this article with your network and let them know about the evolution that’s going on in the industry thanks to solutions offered by SecurSafe.

Cash Fights Back: Use of Cash on the Rise in Europe The go to Market Company