Tuesday, January 9, 2024 4 minute read

National Payments Plan: A transformative decade in payment behaviours

Tuesday, January 9, 2024 4 minute read

4 minute read

The creation of a new roadmap for the future evolution of the Irish payments system began last December with the launch of the public consultation on a National Payments Strategy. Its goal is to ‘enhance and build public trust in and the effectiveness of the payments system’ under 4 key pillars:

  • Access & Choice
  • Security & Resilience,
  • Innovation & Inclusion
  • Sustainability & Efficiency

You can find more details here on the strategy and its purpose.

There was also reflection on the progress made in digital payment capabilities and adoption since the National Payments Plan (NPP) was launched over a decade ago.

National Payments Plan and consumer payment behaviours

The NPP highlighted the benefits Ireland could gain from adopting more modern payment methods and noted how Ireland “was not taking full advantage of the potential benefits of modern payment methods” and remained reliant on paper-based payments, such as cash and cheques.

With the pace of innovation in payments accelerating around this time, the worry was Irish businesses and consumers would fall behind their European counterparts. Irish people withdrew almost twice the amount from ATMs every year compared to our European neighbours and were also one of the few remaining EU member states still using cheques on a regular basis.

Fast track to today’s reality and Ireland has experienced a generational step-change in how payments are made with the plan’s payments vision for consumers realised.

1. Electronic forms of payment will be universally accepted as the preferred payment choice

Whether it’s booking a taxi, a last-minute grocery shop at the local supermarket or purchasing a car, electronic payments are now top of mind for most Irish consumers.

A decade earlier, cash dominated as tender of choice. The Laser card had yet to be fully discontinued and replaced with new scheme types that could be more relied upon for overseas transactions, contactless transactions were still in a nascent stage and Ireland’s first banking app had only been launched in late 2012.

Now, the number of payment options available to consumers have significantly increased and recent statistics* reflect the Irish evolution in payments:

  • Irish consumers made 6.6million card transactions each day in Q2 2023>
  • 84% of in-person card payments were contactless in H1 2023
  • The number of online and mobile banking payments grew by 4% year on year in H1 2023 to 73.1 million (with an increase of over 60% in the last five years)

In terms of consumer sentiment, our own survey on payment behaviours and attitudes in 2022 found that about two thirds of Irish consumers preferred using electronic payments with only 3% never using digital payment options.

Covid-19 and payments

The Covid-19 pandemic had an impact in the accelerated adoption of digital payment options by consumers. However, Irish consumers’ growing adaption to card payments was already in flight. By the end of the last decade, the consumer shift to card payments was becoming more apparent with card spending both at home and abroad growing.

2. Irish consumers will have access to the most innovative payment methods

Ireland’s increasing uptake of digital wallets and mobile payments reflects the success of this goal. About 9 in 10 Irish people own a smartphone, with most people checking their phone over 50 times a day. It therefore comes as little surprise that a third of all in-person card payments were made through a mobile phone or wearable device during the first half of 2023. In the second quarter alone, 42% (1.6m) of all in-person contactless payments were made through digital wallets on a daily basis. And, with no default contactless limit on mobile devices (due to the built-in security features), they’re helping keep busy workflow environments moving.

Key to this has been the development of a safe, reliable and transparent mobile payment environment. Along with payment innovations, initiatives like PSD2 and 3D Secure 2.0 has supported the delivery of more secure, mobile-compatible payment experiences. These developments have been essential in supporting the plan’s ambitions in creating an environment that builds trust “to get consumers to make mobile payments using smartphones.”


Frictionless contactless payment experiences, P2P payments and improved payment capabilities on mobile devices have acted as catalysts that have moved mobile payments into mainstream consciousness. With mobile phones at hand, there are now more ways to pay.


Image: NPP 2

3. Paper based payment options will remain available and consumers will not be obliged to discontinue using them

Cheques and cash remain available. However, their usage has slipped in popularity, particularly with cheques bouncing into touch over the last decade.

Cheque usage

Research for the 2013 NPP cited paying a tradesperson in the home (52%), paying someone in person (40%) and paying a bill by post (39%) as being the most common situations for cheque usage. Now there are more convenient digital payment alternatives for these examples, including P2P payments, pay by link transactions and mobile banking.

Cheques remain an option for customers but the emergence of payment alternatives has diminished their place on the Irish payment landscape. In 2023, cheque volumes declined to its lowest point since 2008 with usage declining by more than half in just 5 years.

ATM withdrawals

The NPP set out that “cash will remain a widely used method of payment, and must be provided in an efficient, secure manner.” The European Central Bank noted that Irish consumers perceived ease of access to cash remained stable in 2022.

In terms of cash usage, the onset of Covid-19 created a shift in the value and volume of ATM withdrawals in Ireland as they experienced a downward shift during the pandemic with a reduction in withdrawals.  Statistics from the Central Bank indicate ATM cash withdrawals have rebounded but at a lower average monthly value than arose before the pandemic.

Meeting consumer expectations through card payment acceptance

The National Payments Plan faced the challenge of encouraging a greater uptake in digital payment options. This time round, the situation is different. The National Payment Strategy has an opportunity to build on Ireland’s position as a leader in digital payment adoption.

Get a free quote

Card payments will be an important part of the strategy’s future roadmap. With customers expecting payment choices at point of sale, don’t miss out by accepting card payments.

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