Payment statistics: 2021

July 22, 2022

The European Central Bank (ECB) today released the 2021 statistics on non-cash payments. The statistics include indicators on access to and use of payment services and terminals by the public, as well as on the volumes and values ​​of transactions processed by payment systems. This news release focuses on developments in the euro area as a whole, although statistics are also published for each EU Member State, in addition to EU and euro area aggregates and comparative data .

Payment services[1]

The total number of non-cash payments in the euro area, including all types of payment services[2], increased in 2021 by 12.5% ​​to 114.2 billion compared to the previous year, the corresponding total value increased by 18.6% to 197 trillion euros. Card payments represented 49% of the total number of transactions, while transfers represented 22% and direct debits 20%.

The number of transfers within the euro area increased in 2021 by 8.6% to reach 25.1 billion and the total value increased by 19.3% to reach 184.2 trillion euros[3]. The relative importance of the number of transfers initiated electronically has continued to increase, with the ratio between transactions initiated electronically and on paper now standing at around sixteen to one. The number of direct debits within the euro area increased in 2021 by 5.8% to 23.2 billion, the corresponding total value increased by 11.1% to 7.3 trillion euros. The number of card transactions increased in 2021 by 17.3% to 56.3 billion, with the corresponding total value increasing by 14.4% to €2.3 trillion. This corresponds to an average value of around €40 per card transaction.

The number of cards in the euro area with a payment function increased in 2021 by 4.6% to 637.7 million. With a total population of 343 million in the eurozone, this represented around 1.9 payment cards per eurozone inhabitant. Chart 1 below shows the evolution of the use of the main payment services in the euro area from 2000 to 2021.

The relative importance of the main payment services continued to vary considerably across the euro area in 2021. For example, at the national level, the highest share of card payments, as a percentage of the number total non-cash payments in 2021, is observed for Portugal at around 72%. The highest share of transfers is found in Finland, at around 38%, and Germany accounts for the highest percentage of direct debits, at around 43%, again expressed as a percentage of the total number of non-cash payments in 2021 (see appendix).

In 2021, the total number of automated teller machines (ATMs) in the euro area decreased by 4.2% to 0.28 million, while the number of point-of-sale (POS) terminals increased by 9.8% at 13.5 million.

Chart 1

Use of the main payment services in the euro zone

(number of transactions per year in billions)

Source: ECB.
Note: Data have been partially estimated for periods prior to 2010, as methodological changes were implemented in previous years and some corresponding data are not available. The historical estimate made by the ECB guarantees the comparability of the figures over the whole period. Statistics are also collected on other payment services, which accounted for 0.9% of the total number of euro area transactions in 2021.

Payment Services Data

Retail payment systems

Retail payment systems in the euro area mainly process payments made by individuals, of relatively low value and high volume.

In 2021, data was reported for 25 retail payment systems within the euro area as a whole. During the year, approximately 50 billion transactions were processed for a combined value of 41.1 trillion euros.[4].

The degree of concentration of euro area retail payment systems continues to be high in 2021. The three largest systems by number of transactions (STEP2-T[5], CORE in France and RPS in Germany) processed 69% of the volume and 72% of the value of all transactions processed by retail payment systems in the Eurozone. Chart 2 shows the number and value of transactions processed by euro area retail payment systems in 2021.

Chart 2

Retail payment systems in the euro area in 2021

(value of transactions in trillions of euros and number of transactions in billions)

Source: ECB.

Retail payment systems data

High Value Payment Systems

Large Value Payment Systems (LVPS) are designed primarily to process high value and/or high priority payments made between system participants on their own behalf or on behalf of their customers. Although in general no minimum value is set for the payments made in these systems, the average amount of these payments is generally relatively large. In 2021, LVPS systems settled 140 million payments for a total value of €510 trillion in euro payments, with TARGET2 and EURO1/STEP1 being the two main LVPS.[6].

Chart 3 below shows the number and value of transactions processed by major LVPS in 2021.

Chart 3

Main high value payment systems in 2021

(value of transactions in trillions of euros and number of transactions in millions)

Source: ECB.

Data on large value payment systems


  • The full set of payment statistics can be downloaded from the Statistical Data Warehouse (SDW). The “Reports” section of the SDW also contains pre-formatted tables with payment statistics for the last five years. The data is presented in the same format as in the old “Blue Book Addendum”. For detailed methodological information, including a list of all data definitions, please refer to the “Statistics” section of the ECB’s website.
  • Following the gradual implementation of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) and other developments in the payments market in Europe, the methodological and reporting framework for payment statistics has been improved from reference year 2014. The reporting requirements are set out in the Regulation on payment statistics (ECB/2013/43) and in the guideline on monetary and financial statistics (recast) (ECB/2014/ 15). An information note, available on the ECB’s website, describes the changes in more detail.
  • In addition to annual payments statistics for 2021, this news release incorporates minor revisions to data from previous periods. The hyperlinks in the press release are dynamic; thus, data may change slightly with the next annual release due to revisions. Unless otherwise stated, euro area statistics cover EU Member States which had adopted the euro at the time the data relates.
  • Indicators of the annual growth rate of the value of transactions are adjusted for the HICP.
  • Hyperlinks in the main body of the press release and in accompanying tables lead to data that may change with subsequent releases due to revisions. The figures presented in the tables in the appendix are a snapshot of the data at the time of current publication.

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