Payment card use in Austria

Most Austrians hold at least one payment card, generally a debit card. Card ownership has risen in all holder categories (broken down by age, income and education), widening from 44% in 1996 to 85% in 2011 (most recent survey). Only 23% of respondents (1996: roughly 17%) held a credit card, and most of these were in higher-income and higher-education level cohorts.

While card ownership has steadily augmented since 1996, most Austrians still clearly prefer cash: Cash payments accounted for 82% of all transactions and 65% of the total transaction value according to the 2011 survey. Respondents used debit cards for 14% of transactions (25% of the total transaction value), while 1.7% of transactions (almost 5% of the total transaction value) were conducted using credit cards.

A closer look at the relationship between the chosen means of payment and the amount shows that Austrians use cash above all for lower-value payments. 96% of all payments under EUR 10 were made in cash. Debit cards come into play for payments starting from EUR 20: Debit cards are used for about one-fourth of all payments ranging from between EUR 20 to EUR 50. Debit cards have also gained substantial ground for higher-value payments: Whereas debit cards had been used for only about 5% of payments of EUR 50 to EUR 100 until the year 2000, they were used for one-third of all payments in this category in 2011. Remarkably, the 2011 survey indicates that cash was still used for about one-half of all payments exceeding EUR 100. Credit cards begin to gain traction from amounts over EUR 50, accounting for 5% of all payment means. Overall, cash payments are being replaced by debit card payments, but the popularity of cash has still not been relegated to payments of particular types, e.g. for low-value payments only.

Over time, the average amount of payment transactions has changed, however: The average amount of cash payments came to EUR 26.4 in 1996 and fell to EUR 20.9 in 2011. By extension, the average debit card payment amount diminished from EUR 59.2 to EUR 48.1.

For more information and additional results, see the study “The Use of Payment Instruments in Austria. A Study Based on Survey Data from 1996 to 2011” by Peter Mooslechner, Helmut Stix and Karin Wagner.