Cashless Countries

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen many countries across the world step up their cashless and contact-free payment methods. But what does this mean for the future of banknote?

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Using data from the World Bank and the largest debit and credit card providers, money.co.uk can reveal the most cashless economies in the world.

We indexed the following five factors to give each country a score out of 100 and to find out which ones are banishing the banknote in exchange for e-wallets and electronic transactions:

  • % of population (aged 15+) with a credit card

  • % of population (aged 15+) with a debit card

  • Contactless payment limits

  • Number of major e-wallet operators available

  • Number of ATMs per 100,000 adults

Thinking of going cashless? You may want to consider applying for a new credit card.

What are the potential advantages and disadvantages of a cashless economy?

Moving to a cashless society means all transactions would be executed through electronic formats rather than using banknotes and coins. Although several countries are rapidly moving towards an entirely cashless economy, we’ve considered some of the pros and cons of a life without cash.

The advantages of a cashless society 👍

  • Digital paper trails: Money laundering and tax fraud will be harder to hide as digital transactions will create a record of every payment made and received.

  • Convenience abroad: Debit cards, credit cards and e-wallets allow for quick and easy payments when travelling.

  • Time: Handling, storing, transporting and depositing paper money takes time and resources so less cash in circulation saves time and money.

  • Reduced crime: Illegal drugs trade and modern day slavery rely heavily on cash to facilitate and disguise payments. Although some will turn to the dark web, less cash in circulation could help reduce crime rates.

The disadvantages of a cashless society 👎

  • Tech-lag: For those who are unfamiliar with technology or unable to afford compatible mobile devices, there is a risk they will be left behind in a cashless world.

  • Access: Vulnerable people and those unable to have access to credit and debit cards may have no way to pay for goods and services.

  • Reliance: In a cashless society, everything will be online and glitches, outages, and innocent mistakes could cause problems.

  • Cyberattacks: Hackers are the bank robbers of the electronic world. In a cashless society, you could be more exposed to cybercriminals. Check out this guide here on what you need to know if you’re hacked.

  • Overspending: When all transactions are completed by tapping, swiping or punching in a PIN number it may be harder for some individuals to keep track of day-to-day spending. Find out more on how to manage your money in our budgeting guide.

  • Online Fraud: With more data online there is a higher risk of being victim to security leaks, Trojan horses, phishing scams, viruses, worms, fraud, data swapping.We have a helpful guide on how to keep your bank details safe online and further information on UK fraud here.

What are contactless payments?

You can make a contactless payment using your debit or credit card by holding your card, or even your phone or other NFC enabled device, near to or on a card reader. It makes paying much quicker because you do not have to enter your PIN.

Currently in the UK you can use contactless to pay for transactions of up to £45 - this is potentially set to rise to £100 in 2021.

You can make far larger payments using a secure contactless device such as an iPhone or one of the new biometric cards being released. 

How does contactless work?

Contactless cards have a small antenna inside them, which transmits the digital information a card reader needs to process a payment. Your card will then be debited in the same way it would for any other transaction. You have to enter your PIN the first time you use contactless.

You can read more about contactless payments in our guide on how to use contactless and Paym.

What are e-wallets?

E-wallets or digital wallets are a type of electronic card which is used for transactions made online through a smartphone.

It’s very similar to making a contactless payment with a debit or credit card, but it uses your smartphone instead. 

In our analysis of cashless countries, we looked at the availability of 5 major e-wallet providers:

  • Apple Pay

  • Google Pay

  • Samsung Pay

  • M-Pesa 

  • Alipay

Despite not being in the top 15 most cashless countries, India was the only country we analysed which had all 5 digital wallets in operation.

In addition to digital wallets, you can also pay through banking and credit card apps. Check with your banking provider to see if this option is available for you.

Contactless payment limits around the world

These numbers are correct as of May 2021, however as exchange rates change over time these may differ. All exchanged values have been rounded to the nearest whole value.

On October 15 2021, the contactless limit in the UK will rise from £45 to £100. The information in the maps and tables below have been amended to reflect this.

Select a range to highlight the countries or hover over to see the contactless payment limit in GBP, USD, EUR and the local currency.

The five countries with the highest contactless limit in the world:

  • Canada (£147)

  • Japan (£130)

  • China (£110)

  • Australia (£110)

  • Singapore (£107)

Contactless payment limits in Europe

Select a range to highlight the countries or hover over to see the contactless payment limit in GBP, USD, EUR and the local currency.

The five countries with the highest contactless limit in Europe:

  • United Kingdom (£100)

  • Switzerland (£63)

  • Liechtenstein (£63)

  • Russia (£48)

  • Bulgaria (£44)

Contactless payment limits under £20 around the world

CountryLimit in GBPLimit in EURLimit in USDLimit in local currency
Iran£3€4$5200,000 IRR
Malawi£5€5$65,000 MWK
Ghana£6€7$950 GHS
Pakistan£7€8$101,500 PKR
Turkmenistan£10€12$1450 TMT
Chile£12€14$1712,000 CLP
Nepal£12€14$172,000 NPR
Vietnam£12€14$17400,000 VND
Tajikistan£12€15$18200 TJS
Uzbekistan£17€20$24250,000 UZS
Czech Republic£17€20$24500 CZK
Fiji£17€24$2050 FJD
Sri Lanka£18€21$255,000 LKR
Poland£19€22$27100 PLN

Contactless payment limits between £20-£30 around the world

CountryLimit in GBPLimit in EURLimit in USDLimit in local currency
Moldova£20€23$28500 MDL
Georgia£21€24$29100 GEL
Turkey£21€24$29250 TRY
Kyrgyzstan£21€24$302,500 KGS
Slovenia£22€25$3025 EUR
Kenya£23€27$333,500 KES
Botswana£23€27$33350 BWP
Tanzania£25€29$3580,000 TZS
Bangladesh£25€29$353,000  BDT
South Africa£25€29$35500 ZAR
Bosnia and Herzegovina£26€31$3760 BAM
Brazil£27€31$38200 BRL
Uganda£27€32$38135,000 UGX
Armenia£27€32$382,000 AMD
Egypt£27€32$38600 EGP
North Macedonia£28€32$392,000 MKD
Belarus£28€33$39100 BYN
Serbia£29€34$414,000 RSD

Contactless payment limits between £30-£40 around the world

CountryLimit in GBPLimit in EURLimit in USDLimit in local currency
Albania£31€37$444,500 ALL
Trinidad and Tobago£31€37$44300 TTD
Morocco£32€37$45400 MAD
Sweden£34€39$48400 SEK
Thailand£34€40$481,500 THB
Montenegro£34€40$4840 EUR
Kosovo£34€40$4840 EUR
Romania£35€41$49200 RON
Hungary£36€42$5115,000 HUF
Ukraine£39€45$541,500 UAH

Contactless payment limits between £40-£50 around the world

CountryLimit in GBPLimit in EURLimit in USDLimit in local currency
Croatia£40€46$56350 HRK
Greenland£40€47$57350 DKK
Denmark£40€47$57350 DKK
Kazakhstan£41€48$5825,000 KZT
Azerbaijan£42€49$59100 AZN
Norway£43€49$60500 NOK
Iceland£43€50$607,500 ISK
Spain£43€50$6050 EUR
Slovakia£43€50$6050 EUR
Portugal£43€50$6050 EUR
Netherlands£43€50$6050 EUR
Monaco£43€50$6050 EUR
Malta£43€50$6050 EUR
Luxembourg£43€50$6050 EUR
Lithuania£43€50$6050 EUR
Latvia£43€50$6050 EUR
Italy£43€50$6050 EUR
Ireland£43€50$6050 EUR
Greece£43€50$6050 EUR
Germany£43€50$6050 EUR
French Guiana£43€50$6050 EUR
France£43€50$6050 EUR
Finland£43€50$6050 EUR
Estonia£43€50$6050 EUR
Cyprus£43€50$6050 EUR
Belgium£43€50$6050 EUR
Austria£43€50$6050 EUR
Andorra£43€50$6050 EUR
Malaysia£43€50$61250 MYR
Mauritius£44€51$612,500 MUR
Bulgaria£44€51$62100 BGN
Falkland Islands£45€52$6345 GBP
Russia£48€56$685,000 RUB
India£48€56$685,000 INR

Contactless payment limits between £50-£70 around the world

CountryLimit in GBPLimit in EURLimit in USDLimit in local currency
Jordan£55€64$7855 JOD
Oman£55€64$7830 OMR
Saudi Arabia£57€66$80300 SAR
Qatar£59€68$82300 QAR
Kuwait£59€69$8325 KWD
Switzerland£63€73$8880 CHF
Liechtenstein£63€73$8880 CHF
Israel£65€75$91300 ILS

Contactless payment limits between £70-£99 around the world

CountryLimit in GBPLimit in EURLimit in USDLimit in local currency
United States of America (USA)£71€83$100100 USD
Philippines£74€86$1045,000 PHP
Taiwan£76€89$1073,000 TWD
Hong Kong£92€106$1291,000 HKD
Bahrain£94€110$13350 BHD
United Arab Emirates (UAE)£97€113$136500 AED

Contactless payment limits over £100 around the world

CountryLimit in GBPLimit in EURLimit in USDLimit in local currency
United Kingdom£100€116$141100 GBP
New Zealand£102€119$144200 NZD
Singapore£107€124$150200 SGD
Australia£110€128$155200 AUD
China£110€128$1551,000 CNY
Japan£130€151$18220,000 JPY
Canada£147€170$206250 CAD
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