Cash‐for‐care (CfC) schemes are monetary transfers to people in need of care who can use them to organize their own care arrangements. Mostly introduced in the 1990s, these schemes combine different policy objectives, as they can aim at (implicitly or explicitly) supporting informal caregivers as well as increasing user choice in long‐term care or even foster the formalization of care relations and the creation of care markets. This article explores from a comparative perspective, how CfC schemes, within broader long‐term care policies, envision, frame, and aim to condition informal care, if different models of relationships between CfC and informal care exist and how these have persisted or changed over time and into which directions. Building on the scholarly debate on familialization vs. defamilialization policies, the paper proposes an analytical framework to investigate the trajectories of seven European countries over a period of 20 years. The results show that, far from being simply instruments of supported familialism, CfC schemes have contributed to a turn towards “optional familialism through the market,” according to which families are encouraged to provide family care and are (directly or indirectly) given alternatives through the provision of market care.