Payments, digital ones are advancing in Italy. But we are among the 30 economies where the most cash flows

Payments, digital ones are advancing in Italy.  But we are among the 30 economies where the most cash flows


It is the classic light and shadow analysis of the relationship between Italians, digital payments and cash, a love from which it is difficult to separate. In fact, also in 2024, Italy is confirmed as one of the 30 worst economies with the highest incidence of cash, measured (from cash intensity index) as paper money in circulation on the national GDP. We are in 28th place in a ranking dominated by Iran, Libya or Hungary: the worst positioning since this measurement has existed. And yet, on the other hand, we also gain four positions in the index that monitors the development of digital payments (cashless society index), where Italy climbs to twenty-first place, the highest ever.

Lights and shadows, it was said, at the center of the focus “Towards a Cashless Italy” organized by the community cashless society of The European House – Ambrosetti, presented as a preview of the two days of events in Cernobbio scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

The research involved a sample of 1,000 citizens. Among the main results, in 2024 the consolidation that began in 2020 is confirmed with the share of Italians who declare they want to increase the use of cashless, equal to over 70% for the third consecutive year, positioning Italy in an adoption phase mass. The increase in preference towards digital payments is driven by innovative payments (digital wallets and P2P) which have increased fivefold in the last 5 years (from 2% to 10.7%). Three out of 5 Italians have increased the use of cashless payments compared to the previous year, and over 1 in 2 Italians say they want to reduce the use of cash in the coming years. Three out of 5 Italians choose to use cashless mainly for speed and convenience.

The survey shows that the population between 18 and 24 years old is the one that uses digital payments most often with a frequency of 63.4% during the year. E-commerce is in first place, driving digital payments, with over 1 in 2 Italians saying they have used the online channel more.

The photograph is of “a two-speed Italy: if, on the one hand, almost 80% of Generation Z uses cashless payments, on the other, a certain attitude towards the use of cash remains, especially among the over-60 population and in some geographical areas of the country such as Southern Italy. Among the reasons, there are also cultural biases that see digital as a greater risk of fraud”, comments Valerio De Molli, Managing Partner and CEO of The European House – Ambrosetti.

The Community also turned its attention to Italian companies, from which a high self-perception of their own level of digital maturity emerges. In fact, however, only 1 in 4 companies (25.6% of the total) is currently experimenting with innovative digital solutionscompared to 74.4% of companies in which, however, this digital development process is not underway.

Among the factors highlighted to support the cashless evolution are environmental and revenue ones. “If in Europe all cash payments were replaced with cards, over 200 million kg of CO2 would be saved per year and in Italy 28 million kg of CO2”, the research reconstructs. Referring to a study by the Dutch Central Bank, Ambrosetti estimates that the environmental impact is equal to 4.6 g/ CO2 for a cash transaction and 3.8 g/ CO2 for a cashless transaction. And so it calculates that in 2022 the total emissions in Europe from cash transactions will be equal to approximately 1.2 billion kg of CO2 (a value comparable to the emissions of the entire metal production sector in Italy). With reference to Italy, it represents the 2nd European economy for total CO2 emissions generated by cash payments (160.8 million kg, 14.2% of the EU total) behind only Germany (232 million kg).

As for the aspect of recovery of evasion, in particular the VAT gap (difference between expected and collected VAT, which for Italy is worth 14.6 billion) the research concludes that “it is no coincidence that almost all European countries that have increased the use of cashless and have reported a decrease in the VAT gap, showing a positive correlation between the adoption of cashless payments and the reduction of the underground economy”.

The analysis finally identified four levels of proposals to promote the transition towards digital payments. For citizens it is proposed to introduce a Selective cashback on the sectors with the highest tax evasion. For merchants, provide incentives for digitalisation linked to the increase in cashless transactions. For companies, encourage the integration of cashless payments and promote access to e-commerce platforms. The country system must leverage sustainability to promote cashless payments by creating the conditions to dematerialize the provision of paper receipts. Finally, it is proposed to bring the cash use limit back to 1,000 euros as an anti-money laundering measure.


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