NPR: For Many Germans, Cash Is Still King

Many Germans say cash is quick and easy to use and keeps transactions more private. Arne Dedert/AFP/Getty Images

June 9, 2019 8:00 AM ET
SIMON SCHÜTZ

“Cash is king” is an age-old saying. For much of Germany, however, the phrase is still up to date.

When in Berlin, do not count on getting around easily with just a credit card. “Cash Only” signs hang on front doors of shops and restaurants across the city.

This may be surprising to some. After all, Germany is Europe’s leading economy and famous for technological know-how. But, even while some of its neighbors in Europe and elsewhere are quickly swapping physical money for new pay technologies, many Germans prefer their euro bills. Cash is quick and easy to use, they argue. It provides a clear picture of personal spending, keeps transactions more private and is widely accepted in the country.

“I usually pay cash. This way I have the feeling of keeping track of the money I spend,” says Madeleine Petry, 29, as she shops at a supermarket in Berlin. “Sometimes when I couldn’t make it to the ATM, I use my debit card in the store, but I never use my credit card for shopping in the real world — just for online shopping.”

She is not the only one with this mindset.

2017 study by the country’s central bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, said Germans carried an average of 107 euros (over $115 at the 2017 exchange rate) in their wallet. That’s more than three times what the average French person carries (32 euros), according to the European Central Bank. It is also far more than what Americans carry. Three-quarters of respondents in a U.S. Bank survey said they carried less than $50 — and one-quarter said they keep $10 or less in their wallet.

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For Many Germans, Cash Is Still King
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For Many Germans, Cash Is Still King
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"Cash is king" is an age-old saying. For much of Germany, however, the phrase is still up to date.