How do the Portuguese pay?

The Payment Systems Report for the year 2018 was recently published by the Bank of Portugal. This report, which reflects the evolution of payment methods in Portugal, gives us a very current view of the Portuguese payment behaviours and of what trends have been observed. Analysing the recent past gives us important tips for the future, and we believe for our customers as well. We took the opportunity to share a brief summary.

In 2018, with growth in terms of economic activity, retail payments in Portugal continued to grow. In 2018, 2.7 billion retail payment operations were processed in the amount of 491.5 billion euros, representing an increase of 7.6% in number of transactions and 7.3% compared to 2017.

Besides payments in cash, which still represent most payments, cards are the most commonly used means of payment by the Portuguese (87% of payments not made in banknotes and coins). This is followed by direct debit, credit transfers and cheques.

Portugal is among the European Union countries with the highest number of bank cards per inhabitant; at the end of 2018 there were more than 30 million cards in Portugal (of which more than 21 million were debit cards).

The Portuguese mainly make withdrawals and purchases with their card. Considering a trend of migration from withdrawals (1% increase in number of transactions) to card payments (a 12% increase in number of transactions), there was an increase of 8.7% in the number of Automatic Payment Terminals (APTs) to 349 thousand and a 2.3% decrease in the number of ATMs.

Although 38% of the cards and 72% of the terminals are already available for contactless payments, only 4% of in-person purchases were made using this technology. Of the total purchases made with cards only 4% were made online.

Credit transfers represent more than half of the amount transacted in Portugal and were the instrument with the highest growth. This growth trend was common to all electronic payment methods.

Although the number of payments by cheque decreased by 12% in 2018, representing a 6.3% decrease in value, an average of 120,000 payments per day are still made by Cheque. The amount paid by cheque totalled 89.7 billion euros in 2018.

It is also worth noting that since 2018, the Portuguese have a new solution to make their payments, and the immediate transfers, completed in seconds already represent, on average, 7,170 payments per day since its launch in September 2018. See the full study of Bank of Portugal here.