Journal of Financial Market Infrastructures

The cost of cash and debit cards in Austria

Hanns Abele and Guido Schaefer

  • First estimation of costs of cash and card payments for the Austrian economy in 2013.
  • Efficiency of the Austrian payment system close to leading countries in the EU.
  • € 10 threshold for shift in cost from cash to card payments.
  • Huge differences in the preferences for cas and card payments depending on educational and social characteristics as well as age.


This paper aims to close a gap in the literature on the cost of payment systems by analyzing the cost of cash and debit cards in Austria. No prior analysis exists, as far as the authors are aware. Using novel data from several sources, the unit costs for cash and debit card payments in 2013 are estimated to be €0.40 and €0.39, respectively, which are close to the most cost-efficient countries in Europe (the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries). Although Austrian consumers have a much stronger preference for cash than consumers in these countries, the Austrian payment industry appears to have developed relatively cost-efficient institutional structures by relying upon centralization and international outsourcing. However, cost efficiency could be further increased by increasing the share of debit card payments or other cost-efficient digital payment methods.

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