Currencies and payment methods around the world

The number of markets into which any merchant can now sell their goods is constantly expanding. We’ve written previously about emerging markets and the payment options they require, and COVID-19 has done nothing to slow down the relentless rise of e-commerce. 

According to the eMarketers 2020 report, the advent of Covid-19 had a severe cooling effect on both global retail and the growth of e-commerce, but for the latter, the slowdown was much less pronounced and severe, as people forced to stay away from bricks and mortar outlets switched to shopping online: 

  • Pre Covid-19, the predictions were that global retail would grow by 4.4% to $26.460 trillion in 2020 and e-commerce would expand by 18.4% to approximately $4.105 trillion in sales.
  • Post Covid-19, the figure for overall retail sales slumped by 10% while that for e-commerce only went down by 2%, representing a cut in sales of $190.79 billion. 

E-commerce projections

The difference in scale of the impact of Covid-19 when only e-commerce is being considered underlines the resilience of the sector and the need for any merchant to ensure that their e-commerce offering is as strong as possible. Figures published by Statista reveal the spectacular levels of growth predicted for online sales in the next few years. 

  • In 2021, more than 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to purchase goods and services online. 
  • By 2023, global online sales are forecast to represent 22% of all retail sales – an increase from 14.1% in 2019. 
  • The monetary value of e-commerce market sales will rise from $3.53 trillion in 2019 to $6.54 trillion in 2023  

Research carried out by Contact Pigeon found that the average number of items per e-commerce order rose by 60% during the period of the pandemic and the lockdowns which accompanied it. While at the same time, according to Arlington Research, 44% of shoppers took the opportunity to try new brands and 45% said that they would be sticking with new websites first discovered during the pandemic. 

The pandemic also had an impact on the age of people choosing to shop online. Research by the retailer Waitrose discovered that the number of shoppers over the age of 55 who were regularly shopping online during 2020 was 23%, compared to just 8% in 2019. While in the US, 5% of customers aged 65 or older chose 2020 as the year during which they made their first purchase online. 

It’s probably easy to get lost in the blizzard of statistics but the overall picture is clear – e-commerce is becoming ever more firmly entrenched across a range of demographics, and the ease of online purchasing is powering the creation of a genuinely global marketplace. 

Cross-border e-commerce

According to Digital Commerce 360, the amount of cross-border global e-commerce online sales in the US grew by 42% in one month, May, during 2020. This same growth pattern was also repeated in June. At the same time, 96% of the small businesses which use eBay in the US export globally, to an average of 17 different countries. 

Any merchant wishing to play a full role in this global e-commerce explosion needs to work with a payment services provider they can trust, like NOIRE. We stay on top of everything a merchant needs to know about accepting payments, from the introduction of Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) to the compliance regulations in a range of different countries. 

More than anything, we know exactly what currency is used in each global marketplace, whether mature or emerging, and the kind of payment methods the customers within those markets will be expecting to be offered: 


In terms of currency, things are simplified across much of Europe by the presence of the Euro as a currency. Of the 27 countries currently in the European Union, 19 have adopted the Euro as their official currency, and those countries are as follows:  

  • Austria  
  • Belgium  
  • Cyprus  
  • Estonia  
  • Finland  
  • France  
  • Germany  
  • Greece  
  • Ireland  
  • Italy  
  • Latvia  
  • Lithuania  
  • Luxembourg  
  • Malta  
  • the Netherlands  
  • Portugal  
  • Slovakia  
  • Slovenia  
  • Spain 

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that selling into the so-called ‘Eurozone’ countries is merely a matter of enabling customers to pay in Euros. The truth of the matter is that there are wide differences in prefered payment methods, even within these countries. 

Austria – the most popular online payment methods include international names such as MasterCard and Visa, as well as PayPal and Apple and Google Pay. Local customers, however, will also be expecting to be offered the option of Sofort, also known as Pay now with Klarna, EPS (which is the standard interface used by Austrian banks) and Trustly, an app that accesses online banking without the customer having to leave the merchant’s website. 

Finland – as well as the internationally established credit cards such as VISA and MasterCard, the most popular payment methods in Finland, include the shop now pay later option of Klarna, PayPal and, as in Austria, the instant online bank transfer facilitator Trustly as well as PayTrail, an e-wallet solution. 

Belgium – the most popular online payment method for customers in Belgium is the local Bancontact debit card, which is often co-branded with the MasterCard Maestro debit card. In addition to the main credit cards used globally, Belgian customers also use SEPA credit transfers and Sofort. 

Italy – in addition to the popularity of the VISA and MasterCard brands, Italian online shoppers like to use a prepaid card issued under the CartaSi or PostePay brand, as well as making online bank transfers. Increasingly popular in Italy is Bancomat Pay, a national mobile payment method that can be used by more than 37 million Italians who use a PagoBancomat debit card. 

Similar variations can be seen across the rest of Europe, with each country tending to have particular favourite methods, often peculiar to that part of the world, in use alongside international payment giants like VISA, MasterCard and PayPal. In Germany, for example, SEPA Direct Debits are popular, while the top online payment method in the Netherlands is the iDEAL online bank transfer system. In France, more than 40 million people use the Paylib ewallet and in Portugal, the MultiBanco system – which enables online bank transfers or cash payments at more than 11,000 locations – is still one of the most popular options. 

Rest of the world

The variety of payment methods to choose from becomes even more striking once the focus switches from Europe to the rest of the world: 

China – the Chinese currency is the Chinese yuan, and online shoppers in this vast and swiftly growing marketplace like to pay for their purchases using AliPay and WeChat Pay. These are both mobile payment methods, and the most popular payment card in China is the local Union Pay. 

Russia – the currency is the Russian ruble and the most popular form of online payment is the digital wallet. Options available include QIWI, Yandex. Money and Webmoney, while card options, in addition to the big international names, include ‘MIR’. 

India – the currency is the Indian rupee. As well as VISA, MasterCard and American Express, popular card payments include the local RuPay debit card. Other methods preferred by Indian shoppers include the UPI online bank transfer system and the Freecharge eWallet. 

Brazil – the currency is the Brazilian real. In terms of online shopping, the fact that one in three Brazilians don’t have access to traditional banking services has driven the popularity of the Boleto Bancario system, which enables online payments to be made in cash at physical locations. In addition to this and bank transfers, the other online payment method popular with Brazilians is the use of VISA and MasterCard. 

Mexico – the currency is the Mexican peso. The most popular online payment methods are VISA and MasterCard credit and debit cards, but the many Mexican people without access to a bank account tend to utilise options like OXXO and 7Eleven. These make it possible to shop online using cash and making the payment at physical stores. 

NOIRE Keeps It Simple 

Even in large and unified trading blocs like the EU the variety of payment options to stay on top of is huge and differs at least slightly from country to country. These differences become magnified when you start to think about trading on a truly global scale. 



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Here at NOIRE, we see it as our job to keep on top of these variations and to make it simple for our clients to navigate the fluctuations when trading across borders and in multiple markets. If you’d like to know more about how our commitment to simplicity, security and flexibility could help your business achieve its global aims, please contact us today.