Every country has different cash trends as well as some similarities. Here’s a closer look at some of them.
Japan: Although the country’s neighbors have been jumping on the digital bandwagon for years and Japan is the number one technologically advanced country in the world, cash remains a big part of Japanese society for many reasons. In fact, the use of cash in Japan reveals some of the country’s interesting cultural and lifestyle trends.
For example, there’s the common use of Tansu Yokin—the Japanese widespread practice of keeping large amounts of cash in dresser drawers. You might think that sounds like a great way to get someone to break into your home, but that reveals something else about Japan—it’s safe. It’s not uncommon for someone to carry large amounts of yen in their wallets and if they lose it, it’s often returned with the money untouched. And with large amounts of small, family-owned businesses that rely on cash plus natural disasters that have knocked out power making people wary of digital payments, it’s easy to see why cash is still so important to the Japanese way of life.
Germany: Like Japan, Germany is also one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries (number five) and the love for cash payments has traditionally been strong. As reported by Worklife, many Germans place a high level of importance on the “concrete” versus the “abstract.” They interviewed Robert Muschalla, a German historian, who explained that “this ideology emerged in the late 18th Century, when Germans were socialized to prioritize a tangible result from their labor over more abstract forms of exchange, such as IOUs, as the economy evolved.” That has translated into Germans distrusting card payments for fear that it would lead to overspending.
But payments are also changing in Germany. While many small restaurants and shops are still cash only, younger generations say they prefer digital payments and we could see this balance shifting even more in coming years.
Other European countries: In 2019 Statista published a chart demonstrating which European countries used the most cash. Greece topped the list of “households using cash at point of sales” at 88 percent with Spain closely behind at 87 percent and Italy at 86 percent. The three at the bottom were Sweden at 15 percent, Denmark at 23 percent and the U.K at 34 percent. How those numbers change after the pandemic will be interesting—but we should expect the convenience offered by digital or contactless payments will lead to some decline in cash use.
The United States: Many Americans still prefer to use cash, although most use credit and debit cards more than they actually use cash to pay for things like groceries. According to the Federal Reserve, currency in circulation is increasing at a rate not seen for over 70 years with $2.07 trillion SD in circulation.
GoBankingRates surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers about their payment preferences, including cash. Of those surveyed, 37 percent said that they prefer cash to any other form of payment. And of those who said they prefer cash, 39 percent said it was to prevent overspending and 34 percent said they saw it as a safer way to pay (less chance of fraud compared to digital payments). While Americans prefer cash over digital payments, the pandemic is changing that and after it ends, those new digital payment users say they aren’t going to stop using them.
South Africa: While cash is still king in South Africa, digital is gaining ground. Mobile payments are becoming much more common and Apple Pay is signaling that it’s interested in entering the country’s market. Still, cash is a trusted and recognizable form of payment particularly for older generations and for people who own and operate small markets so the country’s large 50 percent cash use isn’t likely to change significantly for some time.