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How do Europe’s consumers view the array of payment options currently available to them, ranging from cash and traditional credit and debit cards to smartphone-enabled transactions? To find out, Harris Interactive polled 1,000 adult internet users in each of four countries—France, Germany, Italy and Poland—in September 2014, for Crédit Agricole Cards & Payments.
The research uncovered significant variations from one country to another. In France, for example, bank cards were more popular than elsewhere, while respondents in Germany were more attached to cash than those in other nations. Those in Italy were more likely than respondents in other countries to look forward to electronic wallets and other innovative payment schemes, while many in Poland were early adopters of contactless cards.
Except in Poland, at least 80% of those polled said they used cash most often for small everyday purchases, such as grocery items and tobacco. Generally, though, bank cards were used more than any other option for grocery shopping. Respondents in France, particularly, were sold on card transactions for groceries (77%).
Overall, there was strong support for continuing to use cash and bank cards as the preferred means of payment, though the balance between the two was tilting, as more consumers planned to adopt cards (including contactless bank cards) instead of cash for future payments.
Web users were also asked how they felt about older forms of payment vanishing altogether. Paper bank checks were most likely to be judged obsolete—or nearly so. Two-thirds of all respondents said they would be content to see bank checks phased out. Of course, many regional banks are aiming to phase out paper checks and have actively marketed electronic options that are cheaper to provide.
Clearly cash is in a category of its own; across the four countries, 74% of those polled did not want cash to disappear. But this figure also masked a major divide in national preferences. More than half (53%) of respondents in Italy said they would be content to do without hard currency. Those in Germany, by contrast, were most likely to say they found cash practical and secure, and wouldn’t want to do without it.
And the outlook for electronic wallets? Around two-thirds (66.4%) of all residents in Western Europe will have a smartphone this year, eMarketer estimates, and could theoretically use such a wallet. Indeed, half of the Harris Interactive sample said they considered this idea modern and practical. But it’s worth noting that some of Europe’s largest, most profitable markets—Germany, in particular—may take longer to embrace mobile wallets and payments than their smaller neighbors.
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