Cash is King in Europe: Why Banks and Credit Unions should make travel money easy

Travelers to Europe would do well to travel with pre-purchased Euros. This not only adds convenience (who doesn’t hate scrabbling for the local currency on arrival?), but it will make vacations more hassle-free. In the digital age, why is that?

Well, despite the prevalence of digital transactions, cash remains a preferred payment method in Europe. A BearingPoint survey* across seven European countries revealed that in many of them, and especially those which are German speaking, cash is still king. Austria came out on top, (with 79% of people in favour) and Germany following with 71%.

Other countries like Switzerland (63%), Ireland (61%), France (55%), and the Netherlands (57%) also show a high reliance on cash. Older age groups tend to use cash more frequently but this is not an exclusive bias.

The report was published in early December, but it’s no anomaly. Similar findings were shared by the European Central Bank in February this year.

The Safety and Convenience of Cash

The preference for cash in Europe can be attributed to its convenience and safety. Using cash is easy, especially for small transactions, and it offers good protection against identity theft and online frauds.

While digital payments are widely available – the preferred method of digital payments is via contactless debit cards – the anonymity and simplicity of cash transactions remain appealing, keeping it as the most popular form of payment overall.

Capitalizing on Europe’s Cash Economy

American banks and credit unions have an opportunity here. Customers know that buying foreign currency at the airports or FX booths is expensive, and that it’s usually better value from a bank or credit union – if that service is available.

By providing advanced purchase of Euros to their customers traveling to Europe (and other currencies to those going elsewhere) banks and credit unions can improve their offering and increase brand loyalty.

With the high usage of cash in Europe, providing an easy way for customers to access travel money becomes essential.

Introducing Money 4 Travel

Money 4 Travel , which is provided as a white label package, emerges as a popular solution. It provides a convenient, smartphone-accessible service for foreign currency purchases. Customers can place orders online and collect them at their chosen branch, epitomizing the efficiency of click and collect.

Adopting services like Money 4 Travel not only enhances the customer experience; it also streamlines operations for financial institutions. Money 4 Travel has an especially efficient and cost effective application at the point of sale, and promotes other efficiencies as a result. tis includes another “hidden” benefits. Branch staff can work more efficiently, so less time is spent on organising the foreign currency, which is all automated. Instead they can spend more time helping customers with other matters, including selling other products and services.

Embracing a Cash-Centric Strategy for European Travel

American banks and credit unions can contribute significantly  to a better travel experience for their customers by adapting to the cash-centric nature of European economies. At the same time, there are internal benefits too. By integrating services like Money 4 Travel, they can provide essential convenience and security to travelers, while also enjoying increased operational efficiency.

*Sources: the BearingPoint survey can be found here. The earlier research from the ECB can be found in their blog of 6th February 2023.

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