Different country, different payment preference


For online retailers it’s easy to hit the international stage, however, caution is advised when it comes to the e-payment systems offered as payment preferences vary drastically between countries.

When it comes to purchasing goods online, credit cards have quickly become the method of choice, and no other payment method is so readily accepted throughout the world. Any online retailer knows that it’s not enough just to offer credit card payments; although 78 per cent of online purchases are made with credit cards in the UK, in Germany it’s only 21 per cent.

How do you like your coffee?

There is no single reason or explanation for national payment preferences throughout the world. The subject of online payments is best seen as a development that is at the mercy of cultural, political and economic influences in every country. Just like coffee, neighbouring countries have different preferences when it comes to online payment systems. Germans favour their bitter filter coffee, whereas Italians prefer a strong espresso.

The credit card achieved its breakthrough in the US at the beginning of the 1950s, and this period is considered by experts to be the one that paved the way for the credit card as we know it today. If the UK is regarded as the credit card heartland of Europe, then the fact that the UK and the US share a common language is on its own a plus factor for the credit card. The cultural influence of the US on Europe is still strong today and strongest in the UK.


Italy is a good example of the influence of politics on the payment methods and payment habits. Traditionally, Italians prefer to pay by cash; however politics promoted the use of credit cards with some ground-breaking decisions. In order to combat crime and money laundering, cash transactions of over EUR 1,000 have been made illegal, leading to a sharp increase in the number of credit cards in circulation. This increase in circulation has boosted the acceptance of credit cards, which in turn is leading to increased demand.


Economic reasons also play a large part in deciding which payment systems become established in different countries. In Spain for example, banks offer credit cards primarily as account add-ons, so if a user has multiple accounts, they’ll also have multiple credit cards. Therefore, the circulation of credit cards in Spain is very wide and the proportion of credit card payments is somewhat higher in comparison to other payment methods.


New technology is one of the modern factors that influences payment preferences in individual countries. This can be seen in Kenya for example, where the mobile payment system M-Pesa has a very high market share. The technology associated with this system has helped to provide secure financial services to a largely unbanked population.

For years many experts have seen a lot of potential in mobile payment systems, as smartphones have become constant companions for the majority of people in developed markets. Although paying with a smartphone has not yet become widespread, Apple Pay in theory could be the technology that encourages the whole mobile and payment industries to adapt at a faster rate and has the potential to position Apple as the most powerful force in mobile payments.