89% of Belgians prefer to pay electronically even though a majority of payments is still done by cash.
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89% of Belgians prefer to pay electronically even though a majority of payments is still done by cash.

89% of Belgians prefer to pay electronically even though a majority of payments is still done by cash.

Febelfin, the entire industry and the trade federations are launching the first Digital Payment Day.

Brussels, 23 April 2019 - While 63% of payments are still made in cash in our country, no less than 89% of Belgians would prefer a digital payment solution. This is the result of a survey conducted by iVOX for Febelfin, the Federation of the Belgian financial sector. For more than half of Belgians, the recurring unavailability of paying by card or with a smartphone is the main reason for cash payments; a situation that tends to annoy many. 11.4% of Belgians, for example, have already left a business or store that did not accept digital payments. However, consumers remain unfamiliar and suspicious of new payment solutions, such as contactless payment and smartphone payment.

To encourage digital payments, as the Digital Payment Day is approaching (Saturday, May 11), Febelfin is launching the campaign "Le paiement digital, quoi de plus normal ?" (“Digital Payments, what else?) today, in partnership with Bancontact Payconiq Company, Mastercard, Maestro, VISA, Unizo, UCM, Comeos, Worldline, SNI, SDI, CCV and Europabank. With this Digital Payment Day, Febelfin is inviting Belgian retailers and consumers to opt for digital payments by May 11th. On this day, Febelfin’s CEO Karel Van Eetvelt will meet Belgian merchants to personally reward those who make digital payments possible.

Young Belgian people are the most apt users of payment applications

Although the majority of payments in our country are in cash, more and more Belgians prefer to pay electronically. The iVOX study shows that no less than 89% of Belgians prefer a digital payment solution to cash payment. Nearly half of Belgians prefer to pay by debit card. In addition, about 19% prefer payments by applications (bankapp, Payconiq by Bancontact, Google or Apple Pay) and 9.4% prefer to use their credit card. Payment applications are even more popular among Belgians under 34 years of age. In this segment of the population, 29% of Belgians prefer payments by application. In our country, mobile payments are rising. Indeed, Bancontact Payconiq Company recorded no less than 34 million mobile payments last year, twice as many as in 2017.

Chart: Belgian Preferred Payment Solutions

Source: iVOX, April 2019

Karel Van Eetvelt, CEO of Febelfin, says: "These figures are very telling. Today, consumers clearly expect to be able to pay with a card or smartphone anywhere and in any situation. And yet, it is not quite that simple today. I myself did the test, not using cash for a week, not without difficulties. Our mission as a banking federation is to make payments as safe and easy as possible for the consumer and to guide merchants as much as possible to the digital payment solutions that suit them and match them best."

Our country is behind, compared to our northern neighbors

In Belgium, 63% of payments are still made in cash. This is what came out of a study conducted by the European Central Bank  (2016 figures). This means that Belgium gets worse results than its neighbors. In the Netherlands, for example, the majority of payments are made digitally. In fact, 45% of all transactions in Dutch stores are digital. Denmark is an absolute example of digital payments. There, barely 23% of payments are still made in cash.

Chart: Proportion of cash transactions in shops

(Source: ECB, November 2017)

So why do Belgian people often still pay in cash? About one in five Belgian people (19.4%) still pay in cash by pure habit. So there is still some reluctance, or even some discomfort for the consumer, to pay small amounts digitally. This is unjustified. It is therefore necessary to encourage a change in behavior.

But for more than half of Belgian people (50.1%), the recurring unavailability to pay by card or with a smartphone is the main reason for cash payments. The majority of Belgian people clearly prefer to pay digitally. Indeed, nearly half of Belgian people (48.4%) who pay in cash would have preferred to pay by card if they had the opportunity.

Top 5 main advantages of payment by card or smartphone:

  • 1. It is easy and convenient (57%)
  • 2. It allows me to not have to carry cash (54.8%)
  • 3. It saves me from having to go to the ATM (45.5%)
  • 4. It is fast (44.2%)
  • 5. It is simple (44.2%)

(Source : iVOX, 2019)

Part of the explanation lays in the fact that merchants do not all offer the possibility of paying digitally. And that does not satisfy everyone. Indeed, 11.4% of Belgian people have already left a store where it was not possible to pay by card. Among young people, this number is even higher. More than 20% of Belgian people under 34 have already left a business for this reason. According to Febelfin, this shows that merchants who do not offer digital payment options deter customers from visiting their shops, and therefore risk losing money.

The European Central Bank figures also confirm that Belgian merchants are still catching up. According to the ECB, Belgium has 16,000 payment terminals per million inhabitants. This means that our country is at the bottom of the European pack. In comparison, Denmark has 23,000 payment terminals per million inhabitants and the Netherlands ranks first with 29,000 payment terminals per million inhabitants.

Chart: Number of POS terminals (thousands) per million inhabitants, 2017

Number of POS terminals (thousands) per million inhabitants, 2017

(Source: ECB, 2016)

Belgian people still do not trust new payment technologies

In Belgium, only 5% of card payments are currently contactless. Contactless payments have begun to grow, but when compared to other European countries, Belgium is lagging behind. In the Netherlands, more than half of transactions are contactless. In Eastern European countries such as Hungary (82%) and the Czech Republic (93%), contactless payments are already fully established.

The new iVOX study shows that more than half of Belgians (53.2%) consider contactless payment as unsafe for amounts under 25 euros. The vast majority of them has no trust in the security system behind these types of payments and attributes this lack of confidence to a lack of information. Even when it comes to paying with a smartphone, 44.8% think that this type of transaction is not secure. Once again, 63.5% of Belgian people say they are under-informed.

However, contactless payments (card or smartphone) are as reliable as traditional card payments and use the same secure network. In addition, a PIN code is required for payments over 25 euros. Even in countries where contactless payment has become the norm, we do not notice any specific security or fraud issues on a large scale.

Karel Van Eetvelt, Febelfin’s CEO, says: "It is clear that there is still much work to be done to change the perception and behavior of Belgian consumers. Although we sometimes find it embarrassing to use our card to pay small amounts, in other countries the trend is reversed: residents are embarrassed to pay in cash. This is because cash also has a cost price, and Belgian people do not think enough about that information. We see a real lack of information on the subject and this is precisely what we want to change at Febelfin. By providing the necessary information, we want to help and guide the consumer in an increasingly digital society. This does not only apply to the financial sector, but also to all aspects of our lives. By doing this, we want to get as many people as possible into the digital age.

Febelfin presents… the Digital Payment Day

As part of its mission to increase the financial knowledge of Belgians, Febelfin is launching the first "Digital Payment Day". By Saturday, May 11th, Febelfin wants, in collaboration with its payment partners and trade federations, to convince as many merchants as possible to install a digital payment device and encourage consumers to pay for their purchases with their card or smartphone.

This is the reason why Febelfin is launching the campaign “Le paiement digital, quoi de plus normal ?” (“Digital payment, what else?”) today, in which cash is campaigning against itself. With augmented reality technology, you can scan 20 or 50 euro bills with your smartphone. A video will then launch on your smartphone, in which you will see your ticket come alive. Febelfin gives life to cash. The campaign will also be broadcasted on the radio.

Febelfin is also launching the website www.digitalpaymentday.be for retailers and consumers. This website will help merchants choose the best digital payment method for their business. Consumers can also find information on various digital payment solutions, as well as inspiring examples of what is being done abroad. They will also have the opportunity to download a card they can leave in a store they like and where it is not yet possible to pay digitally. Febelfin wants to give a playful boost to merchants, to encourage them to adopt new payment methods.

The whole industry is involved

The Digital Payment Day is a Febelfin initiative, in collaboration with partners of the payment industry and trade federations: Bancontact Payconiq Company, MasterCard, Maestro, VISA, Unizo, UCM, Comeos, Worldline, SNI, SDI, CCV and Europabank.

Nathalie Vandepeute, CEO of Bancontact Payconiq Company: "Bancontact Payconiq Company is very pleased to offer solutions that ensure secure and easy digital payments for both customers and merchants. Buyers can now pay digitally using the new Payconiq by Bancontact app, wherever the Bancontact or Payconiq logo is displayed, both in stores and online. But the digital payment also covers the payment using the well-known Bancontact payment card, with or without contact. Merchants and businesses may offer their customers Payconiq and/or Bancontact as a method of payment. Payconiq is a very affordable form of electronic payment, as merchants do not pay fixed fees, do not have to make additional investments and have no subscription costs. Bancontact represents more than 1.37 billion transactions a year in Belgium. We are very proud to provide Belgian people with the most popular digital payment methods in store and online. "

Henri Dewaerheijd, Country Manager BeLux Mastercard: "Our studies show that electronic payment is becoming more and more popular with consumers. Therefore, for the merchant, offering the only alternative payment by cash is no longer part of a customer experience strategy in 2019. The merchant has indeed everything to gain by promoting electronic payment: a greater fluidity to customers, better liquidity controls, greater security and simplified accounting."

Jean-Marie de Crayencour, Country Manager Belgium and Luxembourg, Visa: "We are very happy to be part of this campaign alongside the various players in the Belgian ecosystem. Whether for merchants or consumers, digital payments are synonymous with convenience, security and simplicity for shopping. This is why Visa invests in the most innovative payment technologies and creates partnerships: to offer users and merchants safe and secure means of payment. "

Danny Van Assche, Managing Director of Unizo: "Consumers are asking more and more to pay digitally and as an entrepreneur, you have to respond to it. Digital payments have undergone many changes in recent years, resulting in new and easier payment methods. It is therefore time to fully play the digital payment card.

Arnaud Deplae, General Secretary of UCM: “The Digital Payment Day is not only a temporary campaign, but it is meant to be a change of habits in the longer term. Practical, simple, safe and secure: digital payments must be encouraged in a win-win perspective for merchants with reduced fees." 

Hans Cardyn, Head of Communications, Comeos: "As a federation of trade and services, Comeos has an important leverage when it comes to introducing and accepting means of payment. By supporting the Digital Payment Day, merchants are encouraging digital payments to reach secure, simple and intuitive payment solutions in collaboration with all stakeholders."

Vincent Roland, CEO Worldline Belgium: "We are moving towards a society in which consumers expect to be able to pay anytime, anywhere with their credit card or smartphone. Worldline's goal is to support merchants to be able to meet their customers’ demand. "

Christine Mattheeuws, CEO of SNI: "The reason why merchants have generally not gone down the digital road yet is that they are still asking too many questions about existing payment methods and the costs involved. SNI is actively supporting this ambitious initiative because it informs entrepreneurs about digital payments. The small independent retailers have long called for transparency, and with this initiative we are taking a step in the right direction."

Daniel Cauwel, CEO of SDI: "SDI encourages digital payment as an integral part of commerce and new consumption habits. It guarantees a fast and secure payment and a permanent control of the cash flow. This informative day has the merit of clarifying and reassuring the undecided merchants, so that they also take the path of digital payment. "

Tom Verlinde, Product Manager, Europabank: "Europabank is a 100% Belgian bank that, in addition to traditional banking activities, has been active for more than 25 years in the processing of bank card and credit card transactions, both in physical stores and in e-commerce. As a partner of the Digital Payment Day, Europabank highlights the importance of paying easily, quickly and securely, as well as supporting merchants with the right digital payment solution."


About the survey

Online study conducted by the iVOX design office for Febelfin between April 8, 2019 and April 12, 2019 among 1,000 Belgian representatives in terms of language, gender, age and education. The maximum error rate per 1,000 Belgian people is 3.02%.

More information?

Please contact Febelfin’s press service: 02 507 68 31 or via press@febelfin.be.

[1] iVOX Study, April 2019: study conducted at the request of Febelfin
[2] The use of cash by households in the euro area, study conducted by the European Central Bank (ECB), November 2017 (2016 figures)