Only cash is true - that seemed to be a principle in Germany for decades.

But the Corona crisis has also turned this former certainty inside out in Germany.

Because here, too, cash drastically loses support.

This is the result of the EHI study "Payment systems in retail".

The retail institute surveys its member companies for this survey, making it one of the most accurate surveys of its kind.

Franz Nestler

Editor in Business.

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Specifically, the number of payment transactions with bills and coins has plummeted from 14.58 billion paid purchases within twelve months to just 10.11 billion paid purchases.

Expressed as a percentage, the share of cash payments in purchases fell from 46.5 percent to 38.5 percent.

Looking back even further, in 1994 it was still 78.7 percent.

The absolute slump in numbers can be explained very simply by the fact that numerous shops were closed during the corona pandemic.

The relative loss of importance of at least eight percentage points can also be partly attributed to the pandemic.

At that time, retail was expanding the payment options by card.

A study at the time came to the conclusion that 97 percent of all companies wanted to attach notices that pointed to the possibility of card payment or did so.

Another reason for the steady increase in card payments is the proliferation of terminals.

Even small shops that previously refused to buy them, mainly for hygienic reasons in response to the Corona crisis.

There are now more than 922,000 such terminals.

Before the pandemic, there were only 857,000 stations.

Contactless is becoming increasingly important

The third major development concerns contactless payment.

More and more cards have been equipped with this ability, now there are probably almost 100 million pieces.

And what many may have forgotten: the amount that can be used to pay without a PIN was increased from 25 to 50 euros in spring 2020.

As a result, the card is pulled out and presented much more frequently today.

Specifically, according to the German Banking Association, 72.6 percent of all payment transactions are now carried out contactless with the Girocard alone - in the previous year it was 61.1 percent.

The EHI arrives at other numbers again.

According to his study, between 78 percent (self-service department stores) and 87 percent (drugstores) of all transactions are processed contactless, depending on the retail sector.

All of this has meant that 58.8 percent of all transactions are now paid for by card.

The Girocard, as the market leader, accounts for 42.4 percent of this, 9 percent is paid by credit card and 6 percent by direct debit.

Other procedures such as Maestro, V-Pay, the Debit Mastercard or the commercial card account for only 0.6 percent.

small amounts of cash

The situation is different when it comes to the number of transactions.

Here, 37.9 percent of all payment transactions were made with a card.

This is a very sharp increase of almost twelve percentage points and shows two things: when it comes to small amounts, cash is still king.

However, it is also evident that this role is also changing rapidly - thanks to the contactless function, which makes it possible to pay even small amounts quickly.

Another development is also happening at a rapid pace: Retail is increasingly becoming an ATM.

Almost 90 percent of the grocers and drugstores represented in the EHI panel "Payment systems" offer cash payments.

The average payout amount is stable at around 95 euros.

This means that every tenth euro collected last year was given back to customers in this way.

Two years ago it was just 2.8 percent.

Businesses benefit from this

For the shops, this is a situation that only winners know: They offer customers an additional service, at the same time the retail trade has lower costs.

Because cash always costs money.

Retailers hold back large amounts of change in stores.

To do this, complex security technology has to be installed, companies have to insure themselves against theft and pay service providers who deliver and collect cash in armored vehicles.

In addition, there is no interest on the stored money, but everyday things such as wrong change also cause costs.

The working time for the management of the cash stock is also not to be scoffed at.

An older study by the Steinbeis University came to the conclusion ten years ago that the trade made a loss of 6.6 billion euros as a result.

A change that the EHI also noticed directly is the shopping behavior of the Germans.

The average receipt in 2021 was EUR 25.90 - in the previous year it was EUR 2.06 less.

This is particularly noteworthy given that sales in brick-and-mortar retail fell from EUR 435 billion to EUR 430 billion in the previous year.

The experts from the EHI also explain this with the contact restrictions: Accordingly, the trade was visited much less frequently, but then more was bought.

Almost 3.4 billion fewer purchases were made.

At the same time, gross online sales rose from 60 billion euros in the pre-pandemic period to 100 billion euros now.