Credit & Debit are Just Two of Many Payment Options Used by European Shoppers

In the US and Canada, most online merchants and consumers rely on just a few commonly-used payment methods. The four major card brands—Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express—account for about 85% of all online transactions in this region, with most other transactions conducted using either PayPal or Interac.

However, the payment method preferred by consumers is not so homogeneous in most other parts of the world. The European market, for example, boasts a diverse range of payment preferences.

Most Popular European Payment Options

There are several different payment methods that are popular throughout Europe, each with different functionality and security offerings.


Transferring money via direct debit is a highly-popular payment method in several European countries, including the UK, Sweden, Poland and The Netherlands. This is often facilitated by the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), a pan-European payment initiative intended to facilitate cross-border transactions denominated in Euros.

This method is often used by consumers to pay household bills, just as consumers would in many other parts of the world. However, it can also be used for retail and other online purchases.

In Germany, for example, direct debit is the most popular method for conducting eCommerce transactions. The Elektronisches Lastschriftverfahren system (commonly abbreviated to ELV) is the German system operating through SEPA, accounting for roughly 35% of all online payments.


SOFORT is a payment service first introduced in 2005 and based in Munich, Germany. Like PayPal, the platform provides currency conversion, making it a popular choice in EU member states which do not use the Euro, including the UK, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.

SOFORT differs from other services like PayPal in that it does not require a secondary account or registration to use. Instead, the service verifies the user’s identity through a multi-level authentication process. Even though this technique has led critics to speculate on the security of SOFORT, the company insists that the technology is entirely safe and secure.


The Russian-founded payment service Qiwi is now based in Cyprus, but the overwhelming majority of Qiwi’s 70 million unique monthly users are still located in Russia. This service is also a popular option in neighbouring Kazakhstan, Moldova, Romania and Belarus.

Qiwi is a digital wallet to which users can add money at one of more than 150,000 kiosks and terminals throughout participating markets, as well as by using a credit or debit card.

Overall, mobile wallet platforms are a highly popular payment option within the Russian market. Although Qiwi conducts nearly as many transactions each month as Visa, and doubles the number of MasterCard transactions in Russia, it is still just one of several widely-used mobile wallets in the country. Yandex and WebMoney are also common, with some use of PayPal as well.


Yandex is a massive technology company in Russia. Similar in many ways to Google, the business is centred primarily on its flagship search engine, but offers many other services as well. In 2002, the company introduced Yandex.Money to their portfolio.

Like Qiwi, Yandex.Money provides users with a mobile wallet which can be refilled at a kiosk. The methods of replenishing these wallets including cash, bank transfers, prepaid cards, and scratch-off cards.

Although Yandex.Money has fewer users, they have roughly 100,000 more kiosks than Qiwi. In addition, most of Yandex.Money is now owned by Sberbank, one of the largest banks in Easter Europe, thus putting the platform in a good position to encourage long-term sustainability.


Giropay operates only in Germany and is a less prominent entity in German eCommerce. The service trails behind ELV, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and SOFORT in terms of preference by consumers; however, payments processor Adyen describes Giropay as “a must-have for any eCommerce operation in the German market.”

Giropay operates as an alternative to other bank transfer payment methods like SOFORT, and like SOFORT, Giropay offers the added security of two-step authentication for online transactions. When checking out using the service, customers are redirected to their bank’s web page and prompted to enter their account number and PIN. Once that information is verified, the customer receives a remittance slip with a transaction number via email, which must be entered to complete the transaction.


Like Giropay, this payment method is available only to consumers in the service’s native country of The Netherlands. However, consumers still conducted 222 million transactions in 2015, and in an average year, more than 50% of all transactions in The Netherlands employ iDEAL. This makes it an essential for merchants hoping to expand into the Dutch market.

iDEAL is an interbank network which allows users to make online purchases using their bank account. Using this service, customers can simply authorise the payment when checking out; then, the amount is debited from their account and transferred to the merchant’s acquirer.


Although Klarna is available in several countries throughout Scandinavia, Western and Central Europe, it is most widely-used in Sweden, where it accounts for about 20 percent of all online transactions.

Services such as PayPal and Stripe are considered competitors to Klarna, but what makes this service unique is that it offers three different ways to pay. Using this service, consumers can pay:

  1. Immediately using their credit or debit card
  2. Up to 14 days after receiving their goods
  3. Over time by financing the purchase directly through Klarna

Incorporating Klarna into a business is not as essential as offering iDEAL in the Dutch market, but it could be a wise choice for those with large Scandinavian consumer bases. It’s also worth noting that in 2013, Klarna acquired the widely-popular SOFORT, meaning that further expansion of their service is likely.

Invoice/COD/Other Cash Methods

While this payment method has largely vanished in the US, it’s worth noting that many consumers in Europe still prefer to pay with cash-on-delivery. From the buyer’s perspective, COD is the only method which does not require them to offer their personal financial information in one form or another. The prospect makes COD highly-attractive to those do not have a thorough knowledge of how card-not-present payments work, but are still afraid of finding their data compromised.

Other methods of using cash for eCommerce purposes remain popular, such as performing money transfers at brick-and-mortar outlets like convenience stores. Open invoice technologies, like those offered by Klarna, capture anywhere from 15-30 percent of all German eCommerce consumers.

Payment Diversity Can Complicate International eCommerce

Being one of the world’s top-spending regions for eCommerce, most merchants have a great interest in stepping into the European market. However, with the broad range of payment methods available, it can be more of a challenge than merchants might initially anticipate.

If you are interested in expanding to the European market or optimising your local businesses for eCommerce, contact Global Risk Technologies™ today. We’d be happy to assist you as you make this profitable transition.