Card payments boom across the world, led by Finland

Payments made with debit and credit cards and other non-cash methods jumped 9 percent last year to 390 billion transactions, according to a study published on Tuesday.

The 2015 World Payments Report gave an estimate for transactions last year and detailed numbers for the year before.

A clerk uses a credit card reader to charge a customer in Miami.
Getty Images

It showed people in Finland made an average of 450 non-cash payments in 2013, more than any other nationality, thanks to innovations in payments system, and a strong economy and private spending. Its cold winters also encourage the use of e-commerce.

The report said people in the United States were next most active, making 390 non-cash transactions on average in 2013, followed by the inhabitants of the Netherlands, Australia, Denmark, South Korea and Sweden.

Payments by cards, direct debits and credit transfers are booming as people turn to mobile banking, contactless cards and other innovations rather than cash.

The report, a joint venture between Capgemini and Royal Bank of Scotland, said further advances could come from blockchain technology—a growing, decentralized database that allows secure digital transfers.

Credit cards with EMV chips.
Smaller merchants prepare for fraud-proof cards

"Blockchain has the potential, in a simple way, to disrupt a lot of the payment infrastructure and the way we conduct business," said Teresa Connors, head of client engagement of payment services at RBS, saying the architecture could offer security, an audit trail, transparency and speed.

The World Payments Report estimated 390 billion non-cash payment transactions were made last year, up 9 percent from 2013 and up 45 percent from 2009.

China's population made fewer than 50 non-cash transactions per person on average in 2013, but that was up 37 percent from the year before. China's growth is being driven by a rising penetration of mobile phones in smaller towns and steps by authorities to accelerate the roll-out of point-of-sale equipment to merchants as well as opening the domestic card payments market to competition.

While card payments rise, the decline of checks looks set to continue.

What millennials don't know about credit cards

Check transactions fell 11 percent in 2013 from the year before and accounted for 4 percent of non-cash payments in Europe and 13 percent in North America, down from 7 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in 2009.

The report forecast fewer than 5 billion cheques would be written in 2025, compared with about 25 billion in 2013.