Debit and credit card use keeps rising, but cashless society is a long way away

Latest Central Bank data shows cash continues to be a popular choice for many

Are we headed eventually to a cashless economy?

Latest data from the Central Bank of Ireland published on Friday shows credit and debit card-based transactions by Irish households increased to €7.9 billion between September and October this year. Domestic transactions increased 4.6 per cent to €6.4 billion, while so-called non-domestic transactions increased 2.8 per cent to €1.4 billion.

Contactless card payments continue to rise and topped €2 billion during the period. That’s notable given the €50 limit on contactless card payments here, while contactless mobile wallet payments – think of the likes of Apple Pay – topped €1 billion.

So the direction of travel towards more card transactions and less use of cash appears set to continue.


Yet cash is still very much in use despite what many may think, particularly in cities. About €1 billion in cash was withdrawn between September and October. And while that is down 8.2 per cent compared with May, the number of withdrawals has actually increased. There were 7.67 million withdrawals – the majority presumably done at an ATM – during the period. That was a 3.3 per cent increase month on month. On average just under €140 was withdrawn per transaction.

The Central Bank data – one of many fascinating and useful reports on the economy and how we live our lives – shows that there were 85 cash withdrawals for every 100 cards in Ireland during October. Clearly many of us do not use cash day in, day out any more, but there are still many of us who do so.

The data also gives us a snapshot of card expenditure in retail overall. As card payments have increased, this has become an ever more valuable economic indicator as it gives us as close to real-time spending data as is possible. It shows the value of card spending rose 7.3 per cent to €3.1 billion. Seeing as that increase came after a drop the previous month, it will surely be a welcome sign of the health of the retail sector.