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Market analysis – payments cards in Europe (E33)

Payments cards and card payment at the point of sale and online showed solid growth rates in most European countries in 2015. This was supported by the roll-out of new technologies, such contactless, digital wallets and mobile NFC. We examine the statistics and notable trends.

Payments cards in issue and card payments by volume and value showed significant rates of growth once again across the 33 countries covered in the Payments Cards Yearbook. POS payments showed further strong growth, while cash withdrawals grew slightly. By the end of 2015, card payments by volume (number) accounted for 50.24 percent of the cashless payments in the region, up from 48.51 percent in the previous year.

Payments cards and card use in Europe

Across the European countries covered in the Yearbook (E33), there were 991.4 million cards in circulation at end-2015, up by 2.4 percent from 967.8 million in 2014. The number of payments cards per capita was on average 1.53 in the EU28 countries and 1.63 in the E33 countries. However, card holding varies significantly between countries, ranging from a low of 0.75 in Romania to a high of 3.77 in Luxembourg. In 2015, 69.7 percent of all bank-issued cards were debit cards.

In 2015, there were 59.95 billion card payments in the E33 countries, a growth rate of 11.5 percent. There were 98.4 payments per capita on average, ranging from 11.1 in Bulgaria and 13.3 in Greece to a high of 382.4 in Iceland and 373.6 in Norway. Additionally, remote payments on the internet and payments initiated from mobile devices grew by more than 10 and 20 percent respectively in 2015.

The value of card payments across the E33 countries grew by 10.8 percent up to €2,919.2 billion at the end of 2015, up by 45.5 percent on 2010. The statistical ATV per card payment was €48.69, down slightly from €49.01 in 2014. This may reflect the increasing use of contactless cards for low value payments.

Notable trends include:

• Card payments by volume and by value between 2011 and 2015 continued to grow higher than the compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

• Contactless cards and payments became the new normal in Europe and gained significant traction in 2015.

• Digital payments are continuing to grow, supported by the deployment of digital wallets, such as MasterPass by MasterCard and Paylib by the French banks. Competition from non-card based alternative payment methods is also hotting up.

• The ‘Pays’ (Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay) continued their push of mobile HCE NFC payment services across the continent.

• The interchange fee cap and payment application selection provision became effective on 9 December 2015 and 9 June 2016 respectively, changing the commercial framework for many card programmes.

Debit cards 

In 2015, the region’s total debit card base grew by 19.0 million cards to 691.5 million, an increase of 2.8 percent, and CAGR of 3.0 percent. There are around 1.13 debit cards per capita on average across Europe. Only six countries recorded a decline in the total number of debit cards. The greatest declines were seen in Iceland (-17.2 percent) and Cyprus (-11.5 percent). Greece, Denmark and Sweden showed higher debit growth than usual.

There were 48.3 billion payments on debit cards in 2015, a 12.6 percent increase on 2014. All the major developed markets continued to show significant growth in the number of debit payments in 2015. The leaders UK and France accounted for 21.8 billion debit card payments in 2015, an impressive 45.1 percent of the regional total. With specific regard to Germany, 2.03 billion card-initiated IBAN-based ELV direct debits totalling €112.4 billion are no longer included in the debit card total.

Notable trends include:

• By mid-2017, the Austrian electronic purse Quick will be phased out, leaving the German GeldKarte as the last active e-purse.

• Almost all domestic debit card schemes have started the roll-out of contactless cards.

Credit/delayed Debit Cards 

In 2015, the total credit/delayed debit card base grew by 12.5 million cards to 310.8 million, an increase of 4.2 percent on 2014. There were 0.51 credit cards per capita on average across the E33 countries, although credit cards countries, such as Greece, Ireland, Turkey and the UK accounted for 127.4 million cards, 41.0 percent of the total.

There were 11.7 billion delayed debit/credit card payments in 2015. With a CAGR of 6.6 percent growth over the last five years, credit/delayed debit card payments increased less than the rate of debit cards, 8.1 percent over the same period. In 2015, three countries – Greece, Spain and Sweden – recorded a fall in the number of payments on credit/delayed debit cards.

The value of credit/delayed debit cards payments was €772.1 billion, a rise of 5.3 percent on 2014. The UK credit card market has essentially been flat for several years but began to grow again from 2009 and showed a 9.9 percent year-on-year growth in 2015. The value of spending on credit/delayed debit cards fell in Spain and Sweden due to a change in
statistical reporting.

Notable trends include:

• Almost all the remaining domestic credit card schemes have started the roll-out of contactless cards.

• The domestic interchange fee cap for delayed debit/credit consumer cards has helped to stimulate credit card acceptance.

POS Terminals and POS Payments

In 2015, the POS terminal base grew across the E33 countries by 3.7 percent to 13.33 million (CAGR: 3.7 percent). The roll-out of contactless POS terminals and mPOS terminals has contributed to the stronger growth from 2014.

The total number of POS payments was 55.7 billion, up from 50.2 billion in 2014. There was an overall growth rate of 11.0 percent compared to 2014, higher than the CAGR of 8.3 percent seen in the last five years. There were 91.4 POS payments per capita per year on average, with a statistical POS ATV of €48.07 across the EU28 countries. Naturally the POS ATV varies according to country and reflects national payment habits. At one end of the scale was Latvia with an ATV per POS payment of €15.5, and at the other was Greece with €77.4.

POS payments per capita once again showed a range from 8.7 POS payments in Bulgaria up to an extremely high 393.6 POS payments in Iceland. The Nordic countries top the table of payments at POS: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland; followed by the UK, Estonia, the Netherlands, France and Belgium.

payments cards in europe


Notable trends include:

• 78.6 percent of all domestic POS payments on cards in Europe are now EMV transactions, according to the ECB.

• The roll-out of contactless POS terminals continued and more tablet-based solutions were used in combination with mPOS terminals.

• Innovation at POS continued with various payment and loyalty applications based around QR-codes displayed, Bluetooth (BLE) and beacon technologies.

ATMs and Cash Withdrawals

The number of ATMs continued to grow slightly across the E33 countries covered in the Yearbook, advancing to 458,134 ATMs (+0.1 percent). Again, the growth rate in 2015 was lower than the already low CAGR of 0.8 percent over the last five years. The number of cash withdrawals per ATM per month amounted to an average 2,520.8 withdrawals.

In Europe, there is a mid-term trend of declining ATM installations, due to bank mergers and the higher use of cards at point of sale and for remote payments. In 2015, ATM density per one million capita showed a wide range from 278.3 in mature Finland to a high 1,387 in Portugal.

The total of cash withdrawals by number across all the E33 countries covered in the Yearbook showed an overall growth rate of 0.6 percent in 2015, which was lower than the compound annual growth rate of 0.9 percent over the last five years. There were 13.86 billion cash withdrawals performed across the E33 countries. In 2015, there were 22.7 withdrawals on cards per capita, ranging from 10.7 withdrawals in Norway up to the high 44.0 withdrawals in Portugal.

The total value of cash withdrawn grew overall by 6.3 percent in 2015, which was higher than the compound annual growth rate of 3.5 percent between 2010 and 2015.

A total of €1,775.7 billion was withdrawn from ATMs across in the region in 2015, with the ATV per withdrawal being €128.13. The UK, France, and Germany accounted for 50.2 percent of the total of cash withdrawn by value, down from 59.4 percent in 2005.

payments and ATM's in Europe

Notable trends include:

• ATM terminals installed and cash withdrawals by number and by value continued to decline in many countries.

• Contactless ATMs, card-less withdrawals initiated using mobile banking apps, biometric authentication and the extension of the ATM as a self-service channel both in-branch and outside of core banking hours are becoming more widespread.

The European Payment Cards Yearbook 2016-17

The latest edition of the European Payment Cards Yearbook 2016-17 is based on end-2015 payment industry figures. It reports the recent card market developments and the latest card business trends. Rich statistical data is provided by country, including typical key performance indicators to document the growth of cards in issue and the growth of transactions by number and by value.

Further information on leading issuers, acquirers and processors, on cards and remote payments via the internet, digital wallets and mobile payments initiatives by country are also included, along with
notable trends.

Note: This article is compiled using detailed information adapted from individual country profiles and from the European Overview section of the European Payment Cards Yearbook 2016-17.

For more information visit:

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