The Most Popular Online Payment Methods in Europe

Most Popular Online Payment Methods in Europe

If you sell goods anywhere in the European Union, especially online, you need to familiarise yourself with the most popular payment methods used by European consumers. You may have the best product in the world, but if your store isn’t set up to accommodate your customers’ preferred payment methods, you’re going to lose a ton of revenue.

The good news is that there’s never been a better time to be a part of the ecommerce market in Europe. Statistics indicate that European ecommerce revenues hit more than €717 billion last year, and the market continues to grow. As long as you’re in a position to meet the needs of your customers, you can achieve incredible success in this booming sector.

Europe’s Most Popular Payment Methods

Recent research indicates that the most popular payment methods among European consumers are as follows (in order of popularity):

  • Digital wallets like PayPal and AliPay
  • Major credit cards like Visa and Mastercard
  • Domestic bank credit cards

Other less popular payment methods include cash on delivery, invoices, SEPA Direct Debit, bank transfers, and domestic payment systems.

Digital Wallets

AliPay and other digital wallets are quickly gaining popularity in the European market, but as of 2021, PayPal remains supreme. Consider that, in 2019, PayPal saw more than 330,000 daily active users in the United Kingdom alone. Analysts attribute PayPal’s continued success to a variety of factors, including its convenience, its universal accessibility, and its ability to seamlessly accommodate foreign transactions.

The continued success of digital wallets like PayPal is impossible to ignore. At Unicorn Payment, we’ve designed our entire business model to accommodate the types of features and conveniences that make digital wallets invaluable in the 21st century. For example:

  • Unicorn Payment accommodates transactions worldwide.
  • Unicorn Payment is suitable for businesses of all sizes.
  • Unicorn Payment’s digital wallet allows consumers to check out quickly and securely.
  • Unicorn Payment offers a variety of payment methods to appeal to the widest array of customers.
  • Unicorn Payment offers mobile-friendly checkout and solutions not just for consumers but also for merchants to manage their business.

When PayPal is no longer enough, Unicorn Payment makes things easy.

Major Credit Cards

On the surface, credit and debit cards would seem like the logical choice for the most popular payment method. For instance:

  • They’re a universal payment option
  • They’re used by young and old shoppers alike
  • They don’t require any tech savvy

But while many Europeans do prefer plastic, there are some distinct reasons why a lot of online shoppers are hesitant to reach for their Visa.


The biggest downside is the transaction fees that are imposed on foreign commerce. In the previous section, we noted that much of Europe’s online commerce is cross-border, and this undoubtedly creates some hesitation among shoppers who don’t understand the exchange rates or who just don’t want to make the added investment. The foreign transaction fees can add 1-3% to a typical transaction. Some banks are now waiving these fees, but the waivers can be hard to come by.

Labour Intensiveness

In addition, using a credit or debit card online isn’t as simple as swiping it in a store. The process can actually be rather labour intensive, as noted in the previous section. With PayPal, the transaction can be as simple as logging in.

Security Concerns

Finally, there are the security concerns. One international survey found that 59% of consumers are uncomfortable sharing financial information over the internet. Manually entering a credit card number and security information may contribute to a greater sense of vulnerability than simply logging in to a PayPal account for checkout.

Domestic Bank Credit Cards and Debit Cards

Domestic bank cards include those credit and debit cards that are issued by the cardholder’s primary financial institution. The funds may be connected to the cardholder’s personal checking account, and the card itself usually contains just a card number with no photo identification.

These cards remain popular because they’re universal (pretty much everybody has one), they don’t always require a credit check, and they’re relatively convenient to use (even if you do have to manually enter the number, date, and security code).

One reason why they’re less popular than other payment methods is because they can incur foreign transaction fees when used online. No consumer wants to pay avoidable fees when making a purchase.

When choosing a merchant services provider, be sure to go with a service that accommodates a variety of currencies (including euros, pounds, and U.S. dollars) and payment methods. This will ensure that you’re able to reach the most customers with the greatest convenience.

The Most Popular Payment Methods in Europe Can Vary by Country

If the majority of your customers reside in a specific country, you should familiarise yourself with the most popular payment method in that location.

While digital wallets may be the most popular option across Europe, individual countries often have their own preferences. The most popular payment methods in France aren’t necessarily the most popular payment methods in Italy, and the most popular payment methods in Poland are not the most popular payment methods in Spain.

More specifically:

  • Shoppers in Belgium prefer Visa/Mastercard
  • Shoppers in France prefer Visa/Mastercard
  • Shoppers in Germany prefer invoices
  • Shoppers in Italy prefer digital wallets
  • Shoppers in the Netherlands prefer iDEAL (a Dutch e-commerce payment system)
  • Shoppers in Poland prefer bank transfer
  • Shoppers in Portugal prefer digital wallets
  • Shoppers in Romania prefer cash on delivery
  • Shoppers in Spain prefer digital wallets
  • Shoppers in Switzerland prefer Visa/Mastercard

Preferred local payment methods can also vary by industry, so be sure to do your homework.

The Most Popular Online Payment Methods in Europe- What They Mean for Online Merchants

What can ecommerce retailers learn from these trends?

How can you use this information to maximise your sales and customer experience?

Based on the existing data, there are a few important takeaways to consider:

  • You must offer a variety of payment methods to appeal to the widest array of customers, particularly those who exist outside the European Union. You should offer an array of payment methods (including alternative payment methods) and currencies.
  • It’s important to emphasise that PayPal is not a replacement for professional merchant services. For serious businesses, PayPal alone offers more limitations than benefits. Use it as a supplement to your merchant services, not as a primary payment processor.
  • A growing number of customers are shopping via their mobile phones. Your storefront and checkout process must be mobile-friendly. Otherwise, customers will lose patience and shop elsewhere. Make sure your site is responsive and your checkout is streamlined. One way to simplify checkout is to incorporate e-wallet services into your store.
  • As previously noted, 59% of people are leery about transmitting financial information over the internet. The best way to overcome this objection is to maximise your web security. Ensure that your store is PCI-compliant at all times, use enhanced fraud detection tools, and make encryption a priority.

The best way to succeed in ecommerce is to create an exemplary customer service experience. You can achieve this in part by working with a merchant provider that accommodates all of the most popular payment methods in Europe. Unicorn Payment provides payment services in 196 countries and accepts nearly every payment method globally. Our gateways are strictly PCI compliant and SHA-256 SSL encrypted, and our solutions integrate easily with all major shopping carts.

When you go the extra mile to serve your customers, you will be rewarded for it. So make sure that your storefront is set up to meet the needs of everyone who considers making a purchase—no matter where they’re coming from.