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The use of cash by households in the euro area


  • Esselink, Henk
  • Gijsel, Lola Hernandez-van


Although euro banknotes and coins have been in circulation for fifteen years, not much is known about the actual use of cash by households. This paper presents an estimation of the number and value of cash transactions in all 19 euro area countries in 2016, based on survey results. It presents an extensive description of how euro area consumers pay at points of sale (POS). The aim of this study is to shed light on consumers’ payment behaviour and in particular to improve the understanding of consumers’ payment choices at POS, based on a large sample of countries. Therefore, it provides central banks and relevant payment system stakeholders with fundamental information for the development of their policies and strategic decisions that can contribute to improving the efficiency of the cash cycle and the payment system as a whole. Previous estimates of the value of cash usage by households in the euro area date from 2008. Since then some central banks have carried out their own research on cash usage. This paper is the first study to measure the transaction demand for cash in the euro area. The results show that in 2016 around 79% of all payments at POS were made with cash, 19% with cards and 2% with other payment instruments. In terms of value, the market share of main payment instruments was 54% for cash, 39% for cards and 7% for other instruments. However, results show substantial differences between euro area countries. JEL Classification: E41, E58, D12, D14

Suggested Citation

  • Esselink, Henk & Gijsel, Lola Hernandez-van, 2017. "The use of cash by households in the euro area," Occasional Paper Series 201, European Central Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbops:2017201
    Note: 610969

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Arango-Arango, Carlos A. & Bouhdaoui, Yassine & Bounie, David & Eschelbach, Martina & Hernandez, Lola, 2018. "Cash remains top-of-wallet! International evidence from payment diaries," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 38-48.
    3. Klee, Elizabeth, 2008. "How people pay: Evidence from grocery store data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 526-541, April.
    4. Nicole Jonker & Anneke Kosse, 2013. "Estimating Cash Usage: The Impact of Survey Design on Research Outcomes," De Economist, Springer, vol. 161(1), pages 19-44, March.
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    6. John Bagnall & David Bounie & Kim P. Huynh & Anneke Kosse & Tobias Schmidt & Scott Schuh, 2016. "Consumer Cash Usage: A Cross-Country Comparison with Payment Diary Survey Data," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 12(4), pages 1-61, December.
    7. Lola Hernandez & Nicole Jonker & Anneke Kosse, 2017. "Cash versus Debit Card: The Role of Budget Control," Journal of Consumer Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 91-112, March.
    8. Yassine Bouhdaoui & David Bounie, 2012. "Modeling the Share of Cash Payments in the Economy: An Application to France," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 8(4), pages 175-195, December.
    9. Whitesell, William C, 1989. "The Demand for Currency versus Debitable Accounts: A Note," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 21(2), pages 246-257, May.
    10. Ulf Kalckreuth & Tobias Schmidt & Helmut Stix, 2014. "Choosing and using payment instruments: evidence from German microdata," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 46(3), pages 1019-1055, May.
    11. Nicole Jonker & Anneke Kosse & Lola Hernández, 2012. "Cash usage in the Netherlands: How much, where, when, who and whenever one wants?," DNB Occasional Studies 1002, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    12. Alvarez, Fernando & Lippi, Francesco, 2017. "Cash burns: An inventory model with a cash-credit choice," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 99-112.
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    Cited by:

    1. Doris Ritzberger-Grünwald & Helmut Stix, 2018. "How Austrians bank and pay in an increasingly digitalized world – results from an OeNB survey," Monetary Policy & the Economy, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue Q3/18, pages 52-89.
    2. Donato Masciandaro, 2018. "Central Bank Digital Cash and Cryptocurrencies: Insights from a New Baumol–Friedman Demand for Money," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 51(4), pages 540-550, December.
    3. Carin van der Cruijsen & Joris Knoben, 2018. "Ctrl+C Ctrl+pay: Do people mirror payment behaviour of their peers?," DNB Working Papers 611, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    4. António Rua, 2019. "Modelling the Demand for Euro Banknotes," Working Papers w201905, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.
    5. Emmanuelle Politronacci & Adeline Moret & David Bounie & Abel François, 2018. "L’usage des espèces en France : priorité aux transactions de faible valeur," Bulletin de la Banque de France, Banque de France, issue 220.
    6. Grym, Aleksi, 2018. "The great illusion of digital currencies," BoF Economics Review 1/2018, Bank of Finland.
    7. Martin Brown & Nicole Hentschel & Hannes Mettler & Helmut Stix, 2020. "Financial Innovation, Payment Choice and Cash Demand - Causal Evidence from the Staggered Introduction of Contactless Debit Cards," Working Papers on Finance 2002, University of St. Gallen, School of Finance.
    8. Hartmann, Monika & Gijsel, Lola Hernandez-van & Plooij, Mirjam & Vandeweyer, Quentin, 2019. "Are instant payments becoming the new normal? A comparative study," Occasional Paper Series 229, European Central Bank.
    9. Giorgia Rocco, 2019. "The use of cash in Italy: evidence from the ECB Study on the use of cash by households," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 481, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    10. Frank van der Horst & Jelle Miedema & Joshua Snell & Jan Theeuwes, 2020. "Banknote verification relies on vision, feel and a single second," DNB Working Papers 680, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    11. Katrin Assenmacher & Franz Seitz & Jörn Tenhofen, 2019. "The demand for Swiss banknotes: some new evidence," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics, Springer;Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics, vol. 155(1), pages 1-22, December.
    12. Bruno Carvalho & Susana Peralta & Joao Pereira dos Santos, 2020. "What and how did people buy during the Great Lockdown? Evidence from electronic payments," Working Papers ECARES 2020-20, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    13. Emmanuelle Politronacci & Adeline Moret & David Bounie & Abel François, 2018. "Use of cash in France: the payment method of choice for low-value purchases," Quarterly selection of articles - Bulletin de la Banque de France, Banque de France, issue 220, pages 1-9, November-.
    14. Morten Linnemann Bech & Umar Faruqui & Frederik Ougaard & Cristina Picillo, 2018. "Payments are a-changin' but cash still rules," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, March.
    15. Emanuele Borgonovo & Stefano Caselli & Alessandra Cillo & Donato Masciandaro & Giovanno Rabitti, 2018. "Cryptocurrencies, central bank digital cash, traditional money: does privacy matter?," BAFFI CAREFIN Working Papers 1895, BAFFI CAREFIN, Centre for Applied Research on International Markets Banking Finance and Regulation, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
    16. Ben Lockwood & Erez Yerushalmi, 2019. "How should payment services be taxed?," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 53(1), pages 21-47, June.
    17. Tamás Végsõ, 2020. "Comparative Analysis of the Changes in Cash Demand in Hungary," Financial and Economic Review, Magyar Nemzeti Bank (Central Bank of Hungary), vol. 19(1), pages 90-118.
    18. Hiroshi FUJIKI & Kiyotaka Nakashima, 2019. "Cash Usage Trends in Japan: Evidence Using Aggregate and Household Survey Data," Working Papers e131, Tokyo Center for Economic Research.
    19. László Kajdi & István Nemecskó, 2020. "Regional Features of Card Payments in Hungary," Financial and Economic Review, Magyar Nemzeti Bank (Central Bank of Hungary), vol. 19(1), pages 65-89.
    20. Carlos A. Arango-Arango & Nicolás F. Suárez-Ariza, 2019. "Digital Payments Adoption and the Demand for Cash: New International Evidence," Borradores de Economia 1074, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
    21. George Hondroyiannis & Dimitrios Papaoikonomou, 2018. "Fiscal structural reforms: the effect of card payments on vat revenue in the euro area," Working Papers 249, Bank of Greece.
    22. Giorgio Nuzzo & Stefano Piermattei, 2019. "Measuring financial inclusion in the main euro area countries: the role of electronic cards," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 504, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.

    More about this item


    cash; consumer choice; money demand; payment behaviour; payment systems;

    JEL classification:

    • E41 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Demand for Money
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance

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