Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Germany is hopelessly addicted to cash

By Anchal Vohra

30 Aug 2023 · 7 min read

informed Summary

  1. Germany is one of the few countries resisting the global trend towards cashless payments, with Germans paying for nearly 60% of their purchases in cash. This is due to a cultural preference for privacy, mistrust of big tech and fears of financial crises depleting bank balances.

In the German city of Weimar, just a few steps from Enlightenment-era literary luminary Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s baroque residence, the Lavazza cafe seems determined to remain in the past. This cafe, like many other establishments all over the country, accepts only cash. That old-fashioned and inconvenient mode of payment is still revered in Germany. According to the latest study by Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, on payment behavior, Germans pay for nearly 60 percent of their purchases—both goods and services—in cash.

Germany is not the only country standing athwart the global trend toward cashless payments. In Austria, cash is so popular that the Austrian chancellor has claimed it should amount to a constitutional right. Yet in other European countries, such as the United Kingdom, cash will account for just 6 percent within a decade, and in the Netherlands only 11 percent of transactions were made in cash last year. In other bigger economies, the pace of the decline is even faster. While in China 8 percent of point-of-sale (POS) transactions were made in cash, in India, cash use has declined from 91 percent in 2019 to 27 percent in 2022.

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