New survey questions Dutch fondness for debit cards

New survey questions Dutch fondness for debit cards

To many expats, the Dutch way of life seems exceptionally modern and high-tech, with its wealth of online services and automated systems.

But according to a recent survey by De Nederlandsche Bank, a great number of Dutch consumers overestimate their own willingness to embrace technology in certain areas of life - namely, at the check-out line.

The great debit illusion

Using shopping diary data from consumers, the survey team compared the frequency with which people believed they tended to pay for items with debit cards - as opposed to using cash or other means - to the actual incidence of debit card use.

The results are surprising. Whereas 68 per cent of consumers reported preferring debit as a means of payment, only 39 per cent of recorded transactions were made using a pinpas.

In fact, in the majority of cases the shoppers paid in cash, though only 32 per cent of those surveyed had reported favouring this method.

Why cling to cash?

Looking at consumer demographics helps to shed some light on these disparities. Among the groups studied, the elderly were the most likely to overestimate their debit card use. They tended to pay cash at the till whenever possible.

Since the debit card is a relatively recent innovation (PIN was introduced to the Netherlands in 1987) the researchers explain this as a function of habit.

Elderly people have spent a larger portion of their lives having to pay in cash for items, and have a harder time changing this engrained behaviour, though they may in principle approve of debit.

Well-educated people with high incomes are more likely to use their debit cards than those of more modest means.

But these more empowered consumers, too, believed they preferred debit much more often than their actions bore out. If they happened to have cash in their pockets, they often reached for it first.

Klein bedrag, pinnen mag!

Finally, the data show that shoppers are more likely to use cash when paying small amounts.

The researchers attribute this to the fact that, until relatively recently, small transactions were either not possible by debit card, or involved a percentage fee.

Though consumers may be aware that this is no longer the case, they feel instinctively safer sticking with cash.

Emily McCallum


Emily McCallum

Emily grew up in a small coastal town in western Canada and moved to Utrecht in 2014, after completing her studies in Vancouver and Germany. So far, she has been...

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