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Cash use plummeted last year, according to new data from Central Bank

Latest statistics from the Central Bank of Ireland show a huge change in how people have been spending their money, in particular when it comes to the use of cash.

Unsurprisingly we didn’t get up to a whole lot last year in person, what with foreign travel, high-street shopping, and indoor dining all closed for business for much of the year.

And with the nation being advised not to use physical cash for public health reasons, it's no surprise then that the use of cash severely dropped off in 2020 - but by almost half?!

The latest data has shown that ATM withdrawals by Irish residents fell by a massive 40% in 2020 when compared to 2019. 

At least that’s according to the latest payment statistics for 2020 which were released by the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) recently.

The data, which is shared annually, also revealed that the value of ATM withdrawals fell by 32% from the previous year to €14.7 billion in 2020.

Interestingly though, the average amount per withdrawal increased by 14% from €139.63 per withdrawal in 2019 to €158.74 in 2020.

In other words, we made fewer withdrawals than we did in 2019, but when we did take out cash, we took out more.

Has the pandemic signalled the beginning of the end for cash?

Spending is on the cards!

The payment statistics for last year also highlighted some very interesting stats and figures in terms of card usage.

In terms of sheer volume, card payments remained the most popular method of payment in 2020, accounting for 64% of the total number of payments - a 3% increase from 2019.

Taking the last five years into account there has been a 79% increase in the number of card payments made, rising from 0.76 billion transactions in 2016 to 1.36 billion in 2020.

However, despite the volume of payments increasing, the value of card payments fell by 3% from 2019 levels, perhaps due to more people saving money.

Meanwhile, the average transaction amount spent using a credit card fell last year from €80.24 in 2019 to €68.70 in 2020.

When it came to debit cards the average amount spent came in at €40.87 - a negligible increase from €40.11 in 2019.

So, in short, cards were more widely and regularly used throughout last year, with an increase in card usage for smaller amounts.

Shopping from home

The figures from the Central Bank have also confirmed just how popular online shopping was throughout last year, when getting your retail fix just wasn’t possible on the high street.

Out of the total value of card payments made in 2020, 42% were from payments initiated ‘remotely’ (i.e. those made online), or €25.90 billion - a 10% increase from 2019.

Furthermore, there was a 26% increase in the number of online transactions to 382.8 million, reflecting the appetite for shopping online, of course spurred on by the global pandemic which locked down society for months at a time.

Direct debit payments

The popularity of payment via direct debit didn’t dwindle in 2020 either with €139 billion being sent using the payment method, an increase of 4% on the previous year.

The volume of direct debits also grew, and by 7% to 149.6 million transactions in 2020, while the average value of a direct debit payment decreased by 3% to €932 from €959 in 2019.

All that being said, a report on payments from the Banking and Payments Federation (BPFI) showed that in April of 2020 only 49% of Irish adults who paid energy bills used direct debit, which may come as a surprise to many, especially considering most if not all suppliers provide big discounts to customers who pay by this billing method.

Didn’t know that? Why not conduct an energy comparison today on for electricity, gas, or dual fuel and see how much you could save. The average energy switcher could net over €500 by switching today and with 14 energy suppliers in Ireland, there’s never been more choice!

Rise of the fintechs?

It may come as a surprise to some but both Revolut and N26 now have a combined customer base of close to 2 million customers. And proving their popularity here in the Republic is the latest stats from the CBI.

A sizeable €7.2 billion was paid in e-money transactions in 2020 through the likes of N26 and Revolut, with the value of transactions growing by a staggering 1,700% from €400 million to €7.2 billion.

The Central Bank of Ireland said that the significant growth seen was driven by an increase in the number of electronic money institutions authorised in Ireland. 

Also growing drastically was the number of payments made with e-money cards with a 1,074% increase between 2019 and 2020.

The average e-money transaction also increased from €25 in 2019 to €39.80 in 2020. However, despite the increase, the CBI said transactions from the fintechs remained low-value ones.

It will be interesting to see in the coming years how the above figures change as more people transition to digital-only banking providers.

Compare digital “banks” on

Have you signed up to Revolut or N26 yet? 

To help you make a decision about which digital provider best suits your needs, we carried out an in-depth comparison of both N26 and Revolut in this blog post. Alternatively, you can learn about the features and benefits of both fintechs by listening to our recent podcast episode on N26 versus Revolut here

If you’re looking for a more traditional current account, we’ve also got you covered! Our current account comparison tool will quickly show you what options are available from Ireland’s main current account providers and let you review features and charges.

On we have a range of other banking and personal finance comparison services available for those looking to lower their everyday banking costs. See what you could save today! 

Get in touch

Are you surprised at the new statistics from the Central Bank of Ireland? Have you found that you’re using less cash since the start of the pandemic? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

If you have any questions about comparing banking products, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. You can contact us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.