Money. Bank card, cash, app… which payment method is the most environmentally friendly?


Wire transfer, check, cash, Apple Pay or Google Pay, PayPal or Lydia… In the digital age, we no longer count the ways to make a financial transaction. However, among the many payment methods available, the bank card continues to “dominate without a share,” notes Frédéric Micheau, Deputy CEO of OpinionWay.

72% of the French still prefer “CB” for their daily purchases (including 7% from a smartphone), according to a survey published on Tuesday by the polling institute.(1). Cash remains the most used method for only 12% of respondents.

“General Ignorance”

When choosing a payment solution, consumers pay particular attention to its security (70%), simplicity (55%) and speed of use (46%). Its ecological impact concerns only a small part of them (8%). And for good reason: “There is a general lack of awareness of the impact of payment methods on the climate,” explains Frédéric Micheau.

As the OpinionWay survey shows, the French really don’t know which is less polluting: a bank card, a check or a smartphone payment. Most even think that the species has a lower carbon footprint than the map… when the opposite is true!

Cash, the most polluting

This follows from a comparative analysis carried out by Greenly(2) , a company specializing in the carbon footprint, a cash payment represents 4.6 g of CO2 equivalent, compared to 1.3 g of CO2e for a physical payment by bank card. Obviously, it is responsible for 3.5 times more greenhouse gas emissions, mainly due to the transportation of money, the electricity needed to operate ATMs and the production of coins.

But even a bank card is not the most respectful solution for the planet. The founder of Delupay, Joël-Alexis Bialkiewicz, assures with supporting studies that it is his mobile app that is “the most virtuous means of payment in terms of carbon emissions”. Specifically, Delupay presents itself as a “true alternative to a bank card” and allows its users to pay for purchases with a smartphone without having to go through an intermediary.

According to Greenly, the French app would be ten times less polluting than a bank card if used for a physical payment (0.12 g CO2e) and almost twice as environmentally friendly if the payment was made online (0.134 g CO2e compared to 0.214 g CO2e for a bank card). If CB pollutes more, it is mainly because of the electronic payment terminal (TPE) it needs to operate in physical stores. However, to understand its carbon footprint (23g CO2e per card), we also need to take into account the extraction of the materials necessary for its production as well as its transportation. So many features that work in favor of Delupay or other apps of its kind.

54,142 fewer round-trip flights between Paris and New York

According to Greenly’s calculations, if DeluPay were to completely replace bank cards and cash, 95,832 tons of CO2 emissions would be avoided annually, equivalent to 54,142 round-trip flights from Paris to New York. “Not negligible”, says Alexis Normand, head of the start-up. But all French people still have to accept this solution for all their purchases.

Realistically, Joël-Alexis Bialkiewicz knows it “won’t be easy”. But knowing that two out of three French people (68%) are already ready to favor a new, greener payment method, he maintains his ambition: to make Delupay “the leading global payment method within 10 years, ahead of Visa and Mastercard.” Just that.

Leave a Comment