Europe: What’s the best way to pay?


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When purchasing online, countries vary in the different payment methods available and the popularity of the different options. Across Europe, the most popular payment option is the credit card, but there are plenty of other payment options worth knowing about. 

With the vast diversity across countries, it’s no surprise that each have their payment preferences, causing a challenge to global ecommerce companies. As a matter of fact, 68% of consumers abandon retail sites due to a dislike of the payment process, highlighting the importance of being able to provide customers with their preferred way of paying. In addition, it is important to keep up-to-date with technology and continue to provide consumers with new payment options as they become available. 

How do online payment methods differ in choice and popularity across Europe?

Fig. 1: Online payment methods in Europe. [] 

Only five payment methods can be found in all European countries: credit cards, debit cards, e-payment providers, advance payment and instalments. 

Fig. 2: Percentage of e-commerce websites in each country accepting the different payment methods. [] 

The range of e-payments in Germany and Italy are very spread out, whilst the UK has the lowest variety of payment options, since credit and debit cards dominate in preference. The graph below outlines the most used credit cards: 

Fig. 3: Percentage of shops in each country accepting different credit cards. [] 

United Kingdom 

For the UK customer, credit cards are the most commonly used option for online payments, followed by debit cards, which account for 35% of online transactions, with PayPal taking third place. Together, these three payment options represent an impressive 96% of all the UK’s transactions. 


When it comes to the Netherlands, the most common payment method is iDEAL: a tool that allows users to use their bank account to transfer money when ordering online. As consumers pay, this amount is then transferred from their account to the seller’s bank account. Many shops will also allow instalments. 


Unlike many other European countries, many German customers prefer paying via invoices after their goods have been received, and the use of credit cards is less common. There are various reasons for this, including German citizens having to pay annual fees on their credit cards, the German culture is strongly debt-averse due to historical financial reasons and alternative payment methods are cheaper. Cash-on-delivery is still a popular payment method for many Germans. Cross-border payments are also very common, with 50% of online payments being made on international websites. 


The most common online payment method in France is using Carte-Bleue, followed by Mastercard and American Express. In France, as in Italy, postal orders are still commonly used, but surprisingly, 68% of shops in France still accept cheques. 


Credit and debit cards dominate the online payment system in Spain, with Visa and Mastercard being the preferred options. PayPal is also a common form of payment, alongside other providers, such as Giropay and Alipay, which are less common in other countries. 


E-payments are the most standard form of purchasing in Italy, including bank transfers and payments on delivery. In Italy, paying via postal order is also a popular method, preferred particularly by people who do not trust credit cards or online tools. Prepaid cards, such as the PostePay, are another standard method of payment, allowing consumers to load a set amount onto the card before purchase. Currently, banks are also providing cards exclusively designed for online shopping, creating a virtual card to use for one transaction only in a safe way. 


What payment options are available outside of Europe?


In Japan, they have convenience stores called Konbinis, where customers can pay for online products in cash. 


Alipay is the most used online payment method in China, taking 60% of the market share. Alipay also offers online-to-offline payment solutions, thanks to its compatibility with the mobile wallet application. Cash is another typical way of paying and UnionPay, a credit card, is very popular amongst merchants entering the market. 


Qiwi is the online payment method used in Russia, where consumers can take advantage of self-service kiosks 24 hours a day, a similar concept to that of an ATM. Yandex is commonly used too, as more than 65,000 online stores prefer to offer this payment option. 

It is easy to see how different cultures vary when it comes to paying for items online, even just within Europe. Whether you are newly expanding your e-commerce operation into new markets or just hoping to increase conversion rates, being aware of your audience’s preferred payment methods is key. Simply translating your payment pages and not tailoring your payment options limits your ability to compete with home-grown businesses in the eyes of your target customer. If you would like help expanding into new markets and tailoring your content and approach, please get in touch. 

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