ATHENS – Cash is still king for many Greeks but now more are turning toward using credit and debit cards for transactions, continuing a trend that began in 2019 and accelerated when the Coronavirus pandemic struck.
The value of domestic payments through Greek cards exceeded cash – preferred for evading taxes – for the first time in 2022, the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said in a survey.
Many businesses in Greece, and professionals such as doctors, lawyers and tradesmen like plumbers, will accept only cash so they can avoid taxes and get around a law requiring receipts by offering customers cash discounts.
The requirement for the use of Point-of-Service (POS) machines is typically gotten around by saying they don’t work or that the Internet is done so they can’t be connected, avoiding the data being sent to tax authorities.
IOBE said ccumulated increase of card transactions in the 2015-2022 period was more than 12 times higher the number of transactions and 500 percent more than the previous period, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA.
The survey also showed that the average value of transactions fell from more than 100 euros ($109.47) in 2009 to under 30 euros ($32.84) in 2022 as many countries edge closer to a cashless society.
The pandemic made more Greeks use cards for online transactions, including for supermarkets, because they were mostly locked down for months and couldn’t get out to use cash.
The overall use of card payments has remained higher than before even as the pandemic wanes, with many now using their phones as well as swiping cards onto payment machines to avoid others handling them.
The trend has been stronger for debit cards, while online transactions increase has been stronger for credit cards, where transactions can be reversed or overturned for safety and the value per transaction has decreased for all products, the report said.
IOBE said that despite the convergence with euro area average with respect to the use of card payments relative to private consumption, Greece remains in the 18th position among the 27 European Union members.
EU27 members in 2021. Hence, there is room for further boosting the use of electronic payments.
In January, a European Central Bank survey found that while Greece is moving faster into the Digital Age and emphasizing the use of credit and debit cards and transactions on mobile phones, one in three people paid in cash.
That’s the highest rate in the Eurozone, the 20 of the 27 countries in the European Union who use the euro as a currency showing that despite the upward trend of cards that many Greeks won’t let go of using cash.
Using cash also is a way of hiding transactions and protecting privacy so that people’s spending can’t be tracked, as it often is on phones unless they are using Virtual Private Networks with safe banking and payment protection.
In Greece, some 11 percent of citizens get up to 25 percent of their income in cash, more than twice the Eurozone average, said the news site Vimatisko, and many like to stash it at home, not just banks.