Payment culture in Europe


How do Europeans pay online?

Europeans love online shopping. Forrester’s market researchers forecast annual double-digit growth for this market, reaching around 234 billion euros by 2018 [1]. But how do Europeans pay for their online purchases? A study [2] shows the following current rankings for payment methods across the whole of Europe. Cards have a clear lead with credit cards and debit cards at the forefront with 59 percent. Then come digital wallets such as PayPal with 13 percent and transfers with 8 percent. Transfers combine direct transfers and traditional offline transfers. Direct debits and cash on delivery are neck and neck with 5 percent. But this ranking should not be taken at face value because there is no one overarching preference in Europe. In fact, quite the opposite, there are big differences in payment cultures in the different countries. Let’s take a closer look at which payment methods are preferred, and where, in Europe.

The traditional way

When it comes to paying online, credit and debit cards are still the traditional methods. In Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Turkey these are by far the most popular payment methods. In these countries, around four in five online transactions are processed using cards. But plastic is not the main method of payment everywhere in Europe. Statistics show that in Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as in Poland and Russia, only one-fifth of online payments are made using plastic.

The conservative way

There are some countries in Europe that, even when paying online, prefer to cling to the tried and trusted methods. The Germans are a prime example, paying 22.1 percent of their online transactions via direct debit and 28 per cent via payment on receipt of the bill. In Sweden too they swear by paying on receipt (26.3%) and payment on receipt is also very important in the banking paradise that is Switzerland (21.3%). In Poland, apart from the traditional transfer, cash on delivery is the most popular method (25%) and this is even more strongly represented in Russia with 41.2%.

The modern way

Of course there are also countries in Europe where more modern payment methods such as digital wallets and mobile payment processes gain acceptance more quickly. In Portugal, Greece and Italy the figures for digital wallets are firmly in the double-digit percentage range. It is also interesting to note that Russians are the top users of digital wallets, with a clear preference for local retailers. Germany, Russia and Poland are at the forefront when it comes to experimenting with mobile payments but their use is so rare that virtually all countries have almost the same low level of take-up.