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The social and private costs of retail payment instruments: a European perspective


  • Schmiedel, Heiko
  • Kostova, Gergana
  • Ruttenberg, Wiebe


The European Central Bank (ECB) carried out a study of the social and private costs of different payment instruments with the participation of 13 national central banks in the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). It shows that the costs to society of providing retail payment services are substantial. On average, they amount to almost 1% of GDP for the sample of participating EU countries. Half of the social costs are incurred by banks and infrastructures, while the other half of all costs are incurred by retailers. The social costs of cash payments represent nearly half of the total social costs, while cash payments have on average the lowest costs per transaction, followed closely by debit card payments. However, in some countries, cash does not always yield the lowest unit costs. Despite countries’ own market characteristics, the European market for retail payments can be grouped into fi ve distinct payment clusters with respect to the social costs of payment instruments, market development, and payment behaviour. The results from the present study may trigger a constructive debate about which policy measures and payment instruments are suitable for improving social welfare and realising potential cost savings along the transaction value chain. JEL Classification: D84, E43, E52

Suggested Citation

  • Schmiedel, Heiko & Kostova, Gergana & Ruttenberg, Wiebe, 2012. "The social and private costs of retail payment instruments: a European perspective," Occasional Paper Series 137, European Central Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbops:20120137

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    Cited by:

    1. Silva, Vânia G. & Ramalho, Esmeralda A. & Vieira, Carlos R., 2016. "The impact of SEPA in credit transfer payments: Evidence from the euro area," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 404-416.
    2. Bruno Karoubi & Régis Chenavaz & Corina Paraschiv, 2016. "Consumers’ perceived risk and hold and use of payment instruments," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(14), pages 1317-1329, March.
    3. repec:bla:jorssa:v:180:y:2017:i:2:p:503-530 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Eschelbach, Martina, 2017. "Pay cash, buy less trash? – Evidence from German payment diary data," International Cash Conference 2017 – War on Cash: Is there a Future for Cash? 162908, Deutsche Bundesbank.
    5. Tamás Ilyés & Lóránt Varga, 2015. "A General Equilibrium Approach of Retail Payments," MNB Working Papers 2015/3, Magyar Nemzeti Bank (Central Bank of Hungary).
    6. König, Jörg, 2016. "Bares bleibt Wahres: Bargeld als Garant für Freiheit und Eigentum," Argumente zur Marktwirtschaft und Politik 136, Stiftung Marktwirtschaft / The Market Economy Foundation, Berlin.
    7. repec:eee:jmacro:v:52:y:2017:i:c:p:252-267 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:kap:openec:v:28:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11079-016-9412-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. G. Ardizzi & F. Crudu & C. Petraglia, 2015. "The Impact of Electronic Payments on Bank Cost Efficiency: Nonparametric Evidence," Working Paper CRENoS 201517, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
    10. Kosse, Anneke, 2013. "Do newspaper articles on card fraud affect debit card usage?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 5382-5391.
    11. repec:tkp:fktm17:121-129 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:taf:applec:v:49:y:2017:i:30:p:2989-3004 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Huynh, Kim P. & Schmidt-Dengler, Philipp & Stix, Helmut, 2014. "Whenever and Wherever: The Role of Card Acceptance in the Transaction Demand for Money," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 472, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    14. Huynh, Kim P. & Schmidt-Dengler, Philipp & Stix, Helmut, 2014. "The Role of Card Acceptance in the Transaction Demand for Money," CEPR Discussion Papers 10183, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. Krivosheya, Egor & Korolev, Andrew, 2016. "Benefits of the retail payments card market: Russian cardholders' evidence," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(11), pages 5034-5039.
    16. Hasan, Iftekhar & Martikainen, Emmi & Takalo, Tuomas, 2014. "Promoting efficient retail payments in Europe," Research Discussion Papers 20/2014, Bank of Finland.
    17. Martikainen, Emmi & Schmiedel, Heiko & Takalo, Tuomas, 2015. "Convergence of European retail payments," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 81-91.
    18. Beat Weber, 2014. "Bitcoin – The Promise and Limits of Private Innovation in Monetary and Payment Systems," Monetary Policy & the Economy, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue 4, pages 53-66.
    19. David, Bounie & Abel, François & Patrick, Waelbroeck, 2016. "Debit card and demand for cash," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 55-66.
    20. Carlos A. Arango-Arango & Héctor M. Zárate-Solano & Nicolás F. Suárez-Ariza, 2017. "Determinantes del Acceso, Uso y Aceptación de Pagos Electrónicos en Colombia," Borradores de Economia 999, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
    21. Carin van der Cruijsen & Lola Hernandez & Nicole Jonker, 2017. "In love with the debit card but still married to cash," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(30), pages 2989-3004, June.
    22. Vânia G. Silva & Esmeralda A. Ramalho & Carlos R. Vieira, 2017. "The Use of Cheques in the European Union: A Cross-Country Analysis," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 581-602, July.
    23. Kopsakangas-Savolainen Maria & Takalo Tuomas, 2014. "Competition Before Sunset: The Case of the Finnish ATM Market," Review of Network Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 13(1), pages 1-33, March.
    24. Codruta Rusu & Helmut Stix, 2017. "Von Bar- und Kartenzahlern – Aktuelle Ergebnisse zur Zahlungsmittelnutzung in Österreich," Monetary Policy & the Economy, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue 1, pages 54-85.
    25. Morscher, Christof & Schlothmann, Daniel & Horsch, Andreas, 2017. "Bargeld quo vadis?," Freiberg Working Papers 2017/01, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.

    More about this item


    Efficiency; Payment instruments; private costs; Social costs;

    JEL classification:

    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations
    • E43 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy

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