Payments cost – but the costs vary

News, Riksbank studies We rarely consider that it costs to make a payment. But it does. In the Riksbank's Cost Study, published today, the authors estimate that the social cost of payments in Sweden amounts to almost 1 per cent of GDP, or around SEK 5,000 per inhabitant per year. This means a total of SEK 51 billion.

Payments could become more efficient

Payments are necessary for the functioning of the economy. But they also consume a lot of resources. It is true that payments have become more efficient and thus cheaper over the last 10-15 years, thanks to rapid digitalisation. But the different digital payment instruments also cost different amounts. This indicates that it is still possible to improve the efficiency even of a digital payment market like Sweden’s.

If you look at all payment situations, payments by card and Swish are the cheapest, costing SEK 4.40 per transaction. When we pay in a shop, card payments are cheapest, SEK 3.70 per transaction, while payments by Swish are cheapest when shopping online, SEK 6 per transaction. Businesses account for around one half of the total costs for payments, households account for about 20 per cent and payment service providers (such as banks) for the remainder.

Cost isn’t everything

The Riksbank's Cost Study has examined the costs of various payment instruments, but cost-efficiency is not everything. If you want to know which payment instruments are best overall, you must also look at their socio-economic benefits. Can all citizens use this payment instrument? Is it environmentally sustainable? Is it a good idea to have several different payment instruments? Does it also work during a crisis or war? Cash payments are certainly one of the most expensive payment instruments, but can have social benefits, as cash can be used in so many situations and also in times of crisis and war.

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Updated 23/03/2023