Coronavirus made Germans fall out of love with cash, study finds

Coronavirus made Germans fall out of love with cash, study finds

Germany has long been a country that prefers cash to credit cards. But according to a recent study, the coronavirus pandemic had a significant - and likely permanent - impact on people’s spending habits. 

Cash falling out of favour in Germany

It’s taken a long old time, but Germany as a country is gradually falling out of love with cash. According to the retail research institute EHI, based in Cologne, only around 38,5 percent of sales in physical retail outlets were paid in cash in 2021. Pre-pandemic, in 2019, cash was used in nearly half of all transactions - a whopping 46,5 percent. 

The share of payments made with cards rose from 50,5 percent in 2019 to 58,8 percent last year. While most payments were made with Girocards (formerly EC cards) - the popular cash payment cards given out by most German banks - credit cards were also used more frequently in 2021. 

These statistics confirm what other reports were already speculating as far back as 2020. It seems that Germans are finally realising what many people around the world already knew - that cards are a convenient and secure way to pay for goods and services. In August 2021, a survey by the Euro Card System found that, for the first time ever, consumers preferred card payments to cash, but 45 percent of people still expressed their fondness for physical banknotes and coins. 

Germans doing more of their shopping online

According to the EHI’s report, it’s not just people’s payment behaviour that has changed over the last two years, but also their shopping habits. As more and more people in the federal republic came to embrace digital payments, and were kept away from physical shops by lockdowns and other restrictions, shopping via the internet also experienced a boom. 

“Because of the contact restrictions, the trend was to visit shops significantly less often, and instead to shop significantly more often online, and make a significant proportion of non-daily purchases online,” the report’s researchers state. 



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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