More than 90 billion non-cash payments were made in the EU last year, nearly five per cent up on 2010 thanks to rising use of credit and debit cards, according to European Central Bank figures.
Of 90.6 billion non-cash payments in 2011, 37.2 billion - 41% - were made using cards, an 8.7% increase on the previous year. The total value of the payments made during the 12 months was EUR1.9 trillion, an average of EUR52 per transaction.
There were 727 million cards in the region - about 1.4 per EU inhabitant - and 440,000 ATMs, up 0.9% on 2010, and 8.8 million point-of-sales terminals, up 3.2%.
Credit transfers make up 27% of the 2011 non-cash payments and direct debits 24%. The ratio of paper-based transactions to non-paper-based transactions continued to decrease, standing at around one to five.
In many countries, cheques are virtually redundant, accounting for less than one per cent of all non-cash payments in 17 of the 27 EU member states. However, in other places the paper-based instruments still play a major role, making up 12% of non-cash transactions in Ireland, 17% in France and 31% in Malta.
In 2011, 42 retail payment systems existed within the EU as a whole, serving a total population of approximately 500 million. During the year, 39.9 billion transactions were processed by those systems with an amount of EUR29.3 trillion.
Of these systems, 22 were located in the euro area, where they served a total population of around 330 million, processing 28.3 billion transactions with a value amounting to EUR19.7 trillion.
Meanwhile, 15 large-value payments systems settled 713 million transactions with a total value of EUR837 trillion in the EU. The two main systems in the euro area - Target2 and Euro1/Step1 - settled 151 million transactions amounting to EUR716 trillion in 2011.