Cash is used significantly less often

For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic, the Swiss population is using cash significantly less often. Mobile payments, on the other hand, are growing steadily and are used almost as often as cash. The Swiss Payment Monitor conducted by the ZHAW and the University of St. Gallen also shows that debit cards are continuing to extend their lead as the most popular means of payment.

The proportion of cash payments in Switzerland has fallen significantly again for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 (-3.2 percentage points). However, cash remains in second place among payment methods, accounting for a quarter of the number of transactions - but only just ahead of payments using mobile devices such as cell phones, tablets or smartwatches (23.3%). Debit cards continue to be the most frequently used payment method (29.3%) and have managed to consolidate their leading position. These are the findings of the tenth Swiss Payment Monitor conducted by the ZHAW School of Management and Law and the Center for Financial Services Innovation at the University of St. Gallen. For the study, around 1,700 people were surveyed in October and November 2023 on a representative basis for the whole of Switzerland.

The debit card clearly consolidated its leading position as a billing product for payments made on site, both in terms of turnover with a share of 41.2% (+3.5 percentage points) and in terms of the number of transactions with 37% (+2.1 percentage points). Credit cards follow in second place in the so-called face-to-face business with a 29.1% share of sales (-3.2 percentage points) and third place in terms of the number of transactions with 21.6% (-0.4 percentage points). This includes payments with e-wallets such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay, where a debit or credit card is stored. "Around one in three credit card payments and 13% of all debit card payments are now made on the move with stored payment cards, for example via Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay," says ZHAW payment methods expert Marcel Stadelmann.

With a share of 29.2% (-2.9 percentage points), cash is still the second most common form of payment on site. Following strong growth between November 2022 and May 2023, twint payments linked to a bank account - i.e. mobile payments in the true sense of the word - only increased slightly to a share of 7.2% (+0.3 percentage points).

The majority of the Swiss population rate access to cash in their everyday lives as fairly good (53%) to very good (32%). Only 15 percent rate it as rather poor (13 percent) to very poor (2 percent) overall. However, almost half of those surveyed believe that access to cash has deteriorated at least somewhat (36%) or even significantly (10%) in recent years. "The subjective perception of the Swiss population is in line with objective measures of access to cash," explains Tobias Trütsch, payment economist at the University of St. Gallen.

Attitudes towards the possible abolition of cash are constantly changing: the proportion of those who are neither for nor against the abolition of cash is falling continuously. Instead, there has been an increase to 44.3% in the proportion of the population who are clearly against the abolition of cash. Older respondents are more strongly opposed to the abolition of cash. In contrast, there is a clear increase in rejection in the younger age groups. "It is interesting that more and more respondents are against the abolition of cash, but at the same time it is being used less and less often to make payments," observes Tobias Trütsch.

The introduction of a cash acceptance obligation in Switzerland is welcomed by a majority of 61%. Slightly fewer than one in five respondents are against it. In contrast, 41% of respondents are in favor of an obligation to accept cashless means of payment and 37% are against it. "From the feedback on the reasons, it is clear that those in favor give the highest priority to individual freedom of choice of payment method from the consumer’s perspective," says Marcel Stadelmann.

Swiss Payment Monitor

The Swiss Payment Monitor is published every six months to provide a timely picture of developments in the payment behavior of the Swiss population. It was published for the first time in 2018 and is based on representative survey data from an online and diary survey as well as public data from the Swiss National Bank. From mid-October to mid-November 2023, around 1,700 people aged 18 and over from all three parts of the country were surveyed on a representative basis about their payment habits and attitudes towards new payment methods. The Swiss Payment Monitor is published by the Swiss Payment Research Center of the ZHAW School of Management and Law and the Swiss Payment Behavior Lab of the University of St. Gallen. The study is financed by the two research institutions, the Swiss Payment Association (industry organization of all major Swiss credit card issuers of the international card organizations) and the industry partners Nexi and Worldline.