Payments Report 2024

Are payments in Sweden safe?

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The payment system can be even more resilient to disruptions

Published: 14 March 2024

The payment infrastructure has worked well in 2023. However, there may be disruptions to one or more payment methods, such as cyber-attacks or disruptions to electricity grids or data communication networks. For the payment system to be robust, it is therefore important to ensure that we can pay in several different ways and to work towards making the different payment methods resilient to different types of disruptions.

We need to be able to pay in several different ways

Everyone has a responsibility to prepare as best they can for a crisis. If many people are prepared, municipalities, regions and authorities can focus on helping those who have the most difficulty coping, such as the elderly or the sick. Part of being prepared is being able to pay in different ways.

Different payment methods have different characteristics. For example, cash can change hands without any functioning electricity or data communication, while Swish payments can be made without the payer and payee being in the same place. Moreover, different payment methods are often based on different underlying technologies, which means that one may work even if the other does not. The public should therefore have access to a variety of payment methods and business operators should in turn accept several of them to ensure that some form of payment is possible even during disruptions. In addition, it is useful for both private persons and companies to have access to several different ways of connecting to the internet. According to the authorities’ Crisis Information, the public is advised to:

  • have accounts with different banks, cards from different card networks (such as Visa and Mastercard) and access to payment services via mobile phone (such as Swish)
  • have several options for internet connection (e.g. mobile data and broadband)
  • have multiple e-IDs, and
  • keep cash at home in smaller denominations.

The Riksbank’s payments survey shows that almost everyone in Sweden has access to several different digital payment methods, usually debit cards and Swish. However, according to a user study from the Riksbank, many people consider it impractical and expensive to hold cash in a crisis buffer and some do not have the financial means to do so.

Although the public needs to have different payment methods, it is important that individual payment methods are as resilient as possible.

The possibility to pay offline can be improved

One way to make a payment method more resilient to disruptions is to ensure that it works offline, i.e. without functioning data communication. According to the Defence Commission’s report on Sweden’s total defence, Kraftsamling, there may be a need for a large number of payments to be made offline in the event of major disruptions if data communications are knocked out as a result of a cyber-attack. However, offline payments involve risks that need to be managed. For example, there is a credit risk if a merchant sells goods without knowing whether the buyer is able to cover the purchase. Credit risk can be allocated in different ways between the parties in a card transaction through regulations and contracts.

Today, it is possible to pay by card offline to some extent. But whether this works depends on the card used, the contract the payer has with the card issuer, and what kind of payment terminal the store has. One problem for cardholders is that they very rarely receive information about whether their card works offline and the amounts they can pay offline. It should also be noted that it is not possible to withdraw cash from ATMs offline, for example. The Riksbank considers that the resilience of the payment system would be strengthened by improving the possibilities for offline payments, which you can read more about in Section Payments should work even in crisis and war.