Hungarian Tourists Embracing Digital Payments on Their Holidays Abroad


The vast majority of Hungarians aiming to go on holiday abroad this year plan to pay on the spot with a card, smartphone or smartwatch, according to Visa’s most recent study looking at payment habits in eight CEE countries.

Digital payment is the most popular method among respondents in Central and Eastern Europe, with more than three-quarters planning to use it when they go on holiday abroad. Hungary leads this trend among the countries surveyed, with 83% of Hungarians expecting to use a card, smartphone or smartwatch to pay during their holiday abroad.

Respondents in the countries surveyed cited convenience (58%), security, such as not having to worry about losing cash (53%), and speed (52%) as advantages of paying abroad with a card.

A fifth of Hungarian travelers (21%) would like to pay with a smartphone or smartwatch. Mobile payments abroad are also popular among Polish and Romanian tourists, with 22% planning to pay this way in each nation.

“Mobile wallets are one of the most popular payment methods, including when traveling abroad, supported by Visa’s systems and technologies,” Bence Sármay, Visa Hungary’s country manager, told journalists at a recent press conference.

“When a user adds their card to a smartphone’s digital wallet, Visa replaces the data with a unique set of numbers. This technology, called tokenization, is an extra layer of security. With Visa, consumers are protected against fraud, card loss ortheft, as they have the option to request a refund if something goes wrong,” he explained.

Lajos Bartha, executive director of financial infrastructure and banking operations at the National Bank of Hungary (MNB), noted the growth rate in non-cash payments.

“According to the data of the MNB, the number of cards registered in mobile wallets increased significantly in 2022, so that by the end of the year, 1.7 million cards could be used with smartphones,” he said.

“The use of these services has also grown dynamically, with almost one-fifth of card payments in the last quarter of 2022 being made with a card registered in a mobile phone. This data also shows that some customers are open to new technologies, and these services can simplify payments both at home and when traveling.”

Switching Cards

More than half of Hungarians (57%) plan to use the same payment card abroad as at home. Some 23% of Hungarian respondents will change to another card; 33% of Hungarians who have switched to a different card have a multi-currency bank account.

Visa debit cards are also available in the offer of MBH Bank, recently created following the mega-merger of three other banks.

“To ensure a carefree journey, we recommend our customers make sure that, before traveling abroad, they find out whether their bank card (be it a retail or corporate, debit or credit card) has built-in travel insurance and, if so, on what terms,” suggested Tamás Kelemen, head of product management at MBH Bank.

“If there is no insurance or if a higher amount of insurance is required for a particular trip, optional travel insurance can be taken out in addition to the existing built-in insurance,” he noted.

“Optional travel insurance can also be applied for with the Visa Sustainable Credit Card, a great choice for environmentally conscious customers, as it not only provides favorable conditions for purchases abroad, domestically, online or even in digital form on the phone but is also made of 100% recycled material,” Kelemen added.

With the rise of e-commerce, Hungarians are increasingly buying goods and services online. Some 80% of individual domestic travelers will buy some kind of service online: 69% will pay for accommodation, 27% will spend on transport, and 21% on entrance fees and excursions.

According to Visa’s study, almost half (49%) of Hungarians who buy a holiday package abroad do so online, through the websites of travel agencies or through platforms aggregating offers. More than two-thirds (67%) of holidaymakers who choose package holidays pay for their trip by card or digital wallet.

Foreign Travel

Some 32% of Hungarians surveyed plan to go on holiday abroad this year. One in every two Hungarians plan to spend between EUR 200 and EUR 400 per person on a foreign vacation, with the average length of the planned trip being seven days.

About 44% of those traveling across the borders would not want to give up their travel plans even if inflation remained high and the cost of living increased. However, 55% of Hungarians would look for more economical accommodation, and 55% would consider shortening their trip.

“Visa believes that travel and tourism play an important role in economic development and job creation while allowing us to understand and appreciate the cultural richness of the world around us. Our survey proves that Hungarians will not stop exploring the world this year,” argued Sármay.

Hungarians most frequently mentioned Croatia (24%), Italy (20%), Austria (19%) and Greece (14%) as their holiday destinations. Most simply want to relax, mixing leisure with sightseeing. Only 13% of respondents plan to spend their holidays abroad actively, hiking and playing sports.

“The return to travel, whether for a longer holiday or a weekend city break, suggests that Hungarian consumers are more positive. This could boost the local economy and many industries, including the tourism sector,” Sármay commented.

Two-thirds of Hungarians planning to travel abroad want to do so at least twice this year, but the second trip will usually be just one or two days. These are mainly city breaks, particularly popular with Millennials and Generation Zers. In such cases, paying by card, smartphone, or smartwatch can be particularly useful.

In London, public transport tickets can only be paid for digitally, and in Sweden, considered the world’s most cashless country, digital payment may be the only option in many cinemas, restaurants and shops.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of June 30, 2023.

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