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Belgians use less cash than all other EU countries

08:10 21/12/2022

Out of all the countries in the EU, Belgian residents use the least amount of cash – not only because they prefer to pay by card, but also because they fnd it difficult to get cash.

More than one in four Belgians say they find it hard to get banknotes, a figure that has worsened in a few years, sending the country to the bottom of the list for the Eurozone.

The data comes from a study by the European Central Bank, which examined the habits of people in the Eurozone and compared them with the results obtained in 2019.

Some 27% of respondents in Belgium complained about the difficulty of obtaining banknotes in the country, compared to an average 9% for the rest of the Eurozone.

The number of complaints on the subject of easy access to cash has grown by 12% in Belgium compared to the previous survey in 2019.

“The closure of many bank branches and the disappearance of many ATMs in Belgium in recent years are clearly a source of frustration,” said the National Bank of Belgium.

There are currently about 4,000 ATMs in Belgium, a number that has halved in 8 years, VRT reports.

And there will only be fewer in the years to come, as Belgium’s four big banks say they intend to close even more as banking services become increasingly digitalised.

The same study also revealed that contactless payment is lagging behind in Belgium, where the method is only used for 39% of payments compared to an average of 62% in the Eurozone.

But this data does not align with that of electronic payment companies such as Bancontact Payconiq Company or Worldline, the latter of which recently reported that figures for Belgium were not far from the European average.

The European Central Bank’s study found that card payments now account for 48% of transactions in Belgium, which has become one of just four Eurozone countries where card payments have supplanted cash transactions.

The share of online transactions in total payments has also increased, from 13% to 24% in three years.

The number of merchants that no longer accept notes and coins has also increased in Belgium, from 2% in 2019 to 5% today.

But despite the prevalence of virtual payments, Belgians still want to have cash on hand. At the beginning of a typical day, the average Belgian has about €97 in cash at their disposal.

Written by Helen Lyons