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The use of cash in France and in the euro area

Banknotes and coins are still the most popular payment instrument, in terms of transaction numbers. They are also in strong demand as a means of precautionary savings thanks to their function as a store of value.

Use of cash in payment transactions

On average, banknotes and coins are used in over 50% of payment transactions in OECD countries, although there are significant disparities between individual nations.

In 2016, the Eurosystem carried out a survey of payment habits among euro area households, and published the results in a 2017 report entitled “Study on the Use of Cash by Households in the Euro Area” (SUCH). According to this report, cash is still the most popular payment instrument in the euro area, accounting for 79% of transactions at the point of sale and 54% of all payments. Although French survey respondents expressed a clear preference for card payments (66%), they still said they paid for two thirds of point-of-sale purchases in cash (68%). These purchases are generally low in value.

The full results of the survey can be found on the ECB’s website (

The use of cash as a store of value

As well as being used in payment transactions, banknotes also have a function as a store of value. According to most studies, only 35-40% of banknotes are held for transaction purposes. This holding of liquidity is generally a precautionary measure, with economic agents choosing to hoard cash as security against future unexpected events, particularly in times of economic or political uncertainty.

There is also a strong demand for euro banknotes for hoarding purposes from outside the euro area. The ECB estimates that 25% of the total value of euro banknotes in issuance are currently held in non-euro area countries.  Data provided by international banks shows that net shipments of euro banknotes to destinations outside the euro area amount to at least EUR 170 billion a year (Source ECB, The international role of the euro, June 2019), or 14% of the total euro banknotes in circulation. However, this is a minimum estimate and does not take into account other channels of outflows such as tourism or migrant workers.

Public access to cash in metropolitan France

The payment instrument landscape is evolving rapidly in France. The country has one of the highest rates of use of cashless payment instruments, with the average resident making a total of 287 cashless payments per year in 2014, compared with 202 in the euro area and the European Union. The use of cash in payment transactions is declining, while card payments (which account for half of cashless payments in France) are increasing faster than other instruments (cash, cheques, bank transfers or direct debits), and contactless payments are also seeing sharp growth.

The Report on public access to cash in metropolitan France (July 2019) confirms that currently cash accessibility and the freedom of choice of payment instruments is guaranteed for everyone, everywhere (and particularly for vulnerable populations or people living in rural areas). French citizens have excellent access to cash, thanks to a network of almost 53,000 ATMs and over 23,000 private cash dispensers. For example:

  • 98.9% of the population aged 15 and over lives either in a municipality equipped with at least one ATM or in a municipality located less than 15 minutes by car from the nearest municipality with a cash dispenser;
  • on average, a person living in a municipality that does not have an ATM lives 8 minutes by car from the nearest equipped municipality;
  • taking all cash dispensers into consideration, only 0.1% of the population (34,268 people aged 15 and over) lives more than 15 minutes from a cash machine.



Updated on: 11/04/2019 12:51