European Survey Finds Finland Leading in Digital Payments

Contactless debit cards have become the most frequently used digital payment method in Europe, according to a new survey from BearingPoint. Cash remains the most frequently used payment method overall, perhaps because half of respondents said they had encountered some kind of problem when making or receiving digital payments.

On average, 56% of respondents said they used a contactless debit card. That makes it the second most frequently used payment method, after cash.

Key Findings

The survey covered Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland—and the differences in payment usage among these countries seems significant.

In Finland, the contactless debit card was the most frequently used payment method across all age groups at 71%. But Finland also has the lowest use of non-contactless debit cards among the seven countries, at 17%. Finland was also the only country where less than half of respondents reported cash usage.

The survey found that many respondents had experienced problems or concerns with digital payment methods, but that varied widely by country. The lowest rate of people reporting such issues was in Finland, with just 38%, which may help to explain the widespread adoption of digital payments there. The country where the majority of respondents said they had experienced problems or concerns was Ireland, at 63%.

There were also significant differences among age groups in the types of payments used. France and Ireland showed the lowest frequency of contactless debit card use among people ages 18 to 24, at just 31% and 40%, respectively. Mobile payment services were used more frequently in the 18 to 24 age group in both France (at 33%) and Ireland (at 54%).

Important Omissions from the Survey

It’s worth noting that these results are narrowly focused on just seven European nations. “These results should be taken with caution,” Sophia Gonzalez, Debit and Payments Analyst at Javelin Strategy & Research, said. “The U.K. has been the birthplace of payments innovation in Europe and was not part of this survey.” 

The findings are of particular interest in their insight into which countries have had the least penetration of digital payment processes. As such, the reluctance to use digital payments in France, especially among the young, may be the most important news here. There, the 18 to 24 age group reported that they preferred no particular payment method for frequent use.

France is also, interestingly enough, the only country surveyed that still makes widespread use of checks. Among those in the 55-plus age cohort in France, 41% still use checks.

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