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Euro zone consumers go cashless as pandemic boosts cards' appeal, ECB says

FILE PHOTO: A sales staff accepts payment by credit card through a point-of-sale (POS) device at a boutique shop in central Athens, Greece, May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Michalis Karagiannis/File Photo

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Euro zone consumers have been paying more with cards and less with cash since the coronavirus pandemic began, and they plan to continue doing so after it ends as shops make electronic payment easier, a European Central Bank survey showed on Wednesday.

The outbreak was accelerating an existing, albeit gradual, move away from cash as new means of contactless payment using cards, phones and even watches become available.

Some 40% of respondents to the ECB’s survey said that they have used cash less since the start of the pandemic and 87% of these intend to keep this habit even after the outbreak is over.

The most common reason for the shift was that electronic payments had been made more convenient by retailers, followed by the fear of becoming infected through banknotes.

The survey was conducted in the last two weeks of July. Across the euro zone, 17,779 people were interviewed.

Respondents in Spain and Portugal were the most concerned about catching the virus from cash. Those in Estonia, Austria and Slovenia were least worried about it.

The ECB also published a separate survey, carried out last year, showing that 49% of respondents already preferred using cards or other means of cashless payment, up from 43% in 2016.

Accessing cash had also become slightly harder, with only 89% of respondents saying it was very or fairly easy, compared with 94% three years earlier.

Cash was also no longer universally accepted across the euro zone. The lowest share of acceptance was observed in Latvia (93%), Estonia (94%), Belgium (94%), Finland (94%) and France(95%).

Reporting By Francesco Canepa, editing by Larry King

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