Paper Money No Thanks To No Cash

Germans and Austrians are more eager than any other European country to hold onto their cold, hard cash, a new survey finds.
Germans view cash as a safer way to spend their earnings.

Can you imagine a day when you no longer carry cash around in your wallet? In many countries that’s already a reality – just not in Germany.

In fact, Germans – and their German-speaking Austrian neighbors – are more likely to carry cash around than any other European country. They’re also less willing to imagine a day when they can get along without it, a new survey released Wednesday has found.

Asked if they carry cash on hand, nine out of 10 Germans said they “almost always” or “regularly” have their wallets full of paper money, according to the poll by Ipsos, commissioned by German-Dutch bank ING-Diba. On average, 79 percent of Europeans said the same.

Only a third of Germans said they’re using less cash than last year – about half of Europeans on average said the same. Nor can they really imagine life without it: 84 percent said they could never imagine living entirely without cash – 60 percent said “absolutely not.” Only Austrians were as skeptical.

Cashless - No Thanks-01

Many Germans simply view cash as a safer way to deal with their earnings. Europe’s largest economy is also known as a nation of savers – and not all of these savers entirely trust banks with their money.

“It is this more expanded feeling of security that pushes German consumers to prefer cash compared to the rest of Europe,” said Carsten Brzeski, ING-Diba’s chief economist, in a statement.

Another possible reason: skepticism of the European Central Bank. The central bank's efforts to stimulate Europe's economy by pumping hundreds of billions into the financial system has been sharply criticized. Critics here have suggested the ECB would be in favor of banishing cash: It would allow the central bank to charge negative interest for bank deposits – basically forcing savers to spend their money or watch it lose value. The central bank has not spoken out in favor of banning cash, but that hasn't stopped Germans from worrying about it.


Christopher Cermak is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author: [email protected]