As Denmark turns away from cash, a payment app has more likes than Facebook

How to pay for it.
How to pay for it.
Image: Reuters/Phil Noble
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Facebook and the rest of its family, notably Instagram and WhatsApp, are the most popular apps in the world. But in Denmark, where digital transactions are deeply entrenched, a payment app called MobilePay has taken the top spot as the most “indispensable” on smartphones, according to a survey by AudienceProject.

Denmark has embraced digital transactions, including card payments, faster than other countries. MobilePay was launched by Danske Bank in 2013 as a peer-to-peer transfer service; it became usable at shops and websites the following year. The payment service has more than 4 million users, and is working with other platforms to make mobile payments available across Europe through the European Mobile Payment Systems Association, in order to compete with the likes of Apple Pay and Google Pay.

“MobilePay has established itself as the pay app in Denmark,” Rune Werliin, chief product officer at AudienceProject, said in an email. “MobilePay is broadly used across all age groups whereas FB is losing ground among the younger generations.”

MobilePay’s popularity highlights why technology companies around the world, from Google to Tencent, have made digital payments a priority. An app that becomes the locus for digital transactions is sure to keep a user’s attention and to spin off valuable data. Payment companies, which are among the most highest valued enterprises in the world, can also make money by charging a tiny fee for purchases.

Danes are early digital adopters (pdf), whether that’s for payments or online shopping. Many people in Denmark live “more or less without cash” according to the country’s central bank, and even more are expected to do so in the near future. But that isn’t to say Denmark will become fully cashless. The country has a cash rule, which means people living there typically have the right to use cash if they want. Some Danes hold onto banknotes as a store of value, and keeping cash around can make sure that vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and the poor, aren’t left behind in the digital transition.

“Danmarks Nationalbank expects that the use of cash as a means of payment will continue to decline as more Danes are expected to choose to live without using cash in the future,” the central bank said. “However, Denmark is not heading for a cashless society. Citizens who wish to hold cash will still have the option to do so.”

In the meantime, payment apps are on track to continue their rise.