Germans are known for their love for cash. Will social distancing due to Covid-19 change their habits and make the use of cashless payment a practice?
The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in the past two months in the way that none of us expected. Social distancing has become a new behaviour, that extends to every part of our lives, including the way we handle cash. It is altering German’s payment behaviour as well.
Germans prefer cash more than any other type of payment, it is not uncommon for cafes and small businesses not to accept cards as a method of payment, which often frustrates tourists who may find themselves in a situation when they couldn’t pay for a meal at a restaurant or a bottle of water at a corner shop with a payment card.
The use of cash isn't just a personal preference for Germans, it's a cultural value that they have grown up with. Their love for cash has roots in their history and in a thrifty culture with a preference for tangible spending. The Germans love of cash goes back to the large extent to the periods of economic turbulence after the both World Wars.
In the past several years Germany has been slowly adopting cards as a way of payment. The shift of habits was noted in an ongoing Bundesbank study regarding tracking consumer payments, started in 2017. The study showed that 88% of Germans wanted to continue using cash in the future, but it also observed that young Germans are looking for new payment alternatives.
As the Covid – 19 pandemic spread, handling euros suddenly felt filthy and potentially deadly, and cash went in many places from being expected to undesirable or banned altogether. For the first time the biggest retailers in Germany began to actively promote the use of contactless payment, also a sign notifying customers of no cash payments at a shop, has become normal thing to be seen at German cafes and corner shops. The changes were additionally aided by the fact that the limit for contactless transaction at the till was doubled to €50. In a recent survey conducted on 1,475 people between 16 and 69, payment industry organisation Initiative Deutsche Zahlungssysteme found that 41% of them used their debit cards more often between the end of March and mid-April than before the crisis; 57% if you include credit card payments.
The payment behaviour is evidently changing as consumers are forced to use cards instead of cash and small business as well as big ones are quickly responding to new necessities. Whether this shift will preserve its hard to say, but it is more likely that return to old habits will be partial, especially with younger generations who are more likely to accept new ways of payment.