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Diversification of payment methods—a focus on dematerialization

When it comes to currencies, ‘cold hard cash’ is increasingly becoming dematerialized through several new forms of money. Let’s take a tour of today’s most commonly used payment methods.

Dematerialized payments gain ground

According to the World Payments Report 2017, the world completed 433 billion transactions without the aid of cash in 2015. The same report projected that non-cash transactions would grow to 577 billion transactions in 2018 and 725.8 billion transactions in 2020. In emerging countries, growth in non-cash transactions could reach 19.6% between 2015 and 2020. Non-cash transactions between 2015 and 2020 are expected to show the following global distribution:

  • North America: 147.4 / 181.7 billion
  • Europe: 101.5 / 139.3 billion
  • Asia-Pacific: 45.3 / 65.3 billion
  • Asia (emerging countries): 55 / 211.5 billion
  • CEMEA: 44.7 / 72.8 billion
  • Latin America: 39.1 / 55.2 billion

Uneven success around the world for mobile payments

The number of transactions carried out via smartphone in 2015 amounted to 49.5 billion—representing 2% of transactions worldwide and a rise of 41.4% compared with 2014! The World Payments Report 2017 projects that mobile payments will reach 87.6 billion transactions in 2018 and 108.8 billion in 2019. China is the country showing the highest adoption rate of mobile payment. In France, it accounts for a meager 3% of all payments, and less than 0.2% in the United States.  

These figures may grow rapidly with the development of contactless payment solutions for mobile phones—contactless payments processed via a smartphone already racked up 1.2 billion transactions in 2017.

The rise of cryptocurrencies

In November 2017, bitcoin reached its record exchange rate of 15,000 dollars for one bitcoin. The world’s first virtual currency (or cryptocurrency) was invented by an anonymous person known only by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin is an electronic currency powered by a decentralized computer network. It is not accountable to any government or oversight body such as a central bank. In 2017, three million people owned digital  currency accounts. The combined value of all cryptocurrencies is estimated at 27 billion dollars. However, the number of bitcoins in circulation can never exceed 21 million. 

E-commerce and online payments building up to represent half of all payments worldwide

In 2016, global e-commerce revenue reached 1,915 billion. Online payments currently represent 8.7% of retail sales worldwide . E-payments are expected to grow by an average of 17.6% annually (CAGR) through 2019, when they will account for half of all payments worldwide. 

French consumes alone spent 72 billion euros on the web in 2016.

Contactless payments (NFC) proving popular in continental France

Launched in 2012 in France and the United States, NFC (Near Field Communication) technology enabled the massive development of contactless payments in recent years. By 2019, this payment method will boast 516 million users worldwide.

In France, 70% of credit and debit cards offer contactless payment and  285,000 stores have acquired contactless checkout terminals. In 2017, 1.1 billion transactions used contactless payment (representing 6.2 billion euros in value), or growth of 112% compared with 2016 . Ten percent of card payments are now contactless , while that number rises to 30% for payments under €20. Authorities raised the limits placed on contactless payments in October 2017, meaning contactless payment can now be used for purchases up to €30 by card and up to €300 by mobile phone.


Let’s take a tour of today’s most commonly used payment methods.

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