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Payment cards in Europe – an update from the European Payment Card Yearbooks

Cards and card payment at the point of sale and online showed solid growth rates in most European countries in 2017. This was supported by the rollout of contactless technologies, digital wallets and mobile NFC HCE payments. We examine the statistics and notable trends from the latest Payment Card Yearbooks.

Cards in issue and card payments by volume and value showed significant rates of growth once again across the 33 countries covered in the European Card Payment Yearbook 2017-18. POS payments showed further strong growth, while cash withdrawals grew slightly. By the end of 2016, card payments by volume (number) accounted for 52.22% of the cashless payments in the region, up from 50.24% in the previous year.


Across the European countries covered in the Yearbook (E33), there were 1,005.6 million cards in circulation at end-2016, up by 1.5% from 990.3 million in 2015. The number of cards per capita was on average 1.57 in the EU28 countries and 1.63 in the E33 countries. However, card holding varies significantly between countries, ranging from a low of 0.80 in Romania to a high of 3.94 in Luxembourg. In 2016, 69.2% of all bank-issued cards were debit cards.

In 2016, there were 67.3 billion card payments in the E33 countries, a growth rate of 11.9%. There were 109.9 payments per capita on average, ranging from 13.1 in Bulgaria and 17.7 in Romania to a high of 404.6 in Iceland and 402.2 in Norway. In addition, remote payments on the internet and payments initiated from mobile devices grew by more than 10 and 20% from 2015, respectively.

The value of card payments across the E33 countries grew by 11.3% up to €3,262 billion at the end of 2016, up by 60.3% on 2011. The statistical ATV per card payment accounted for €48.47, down slightly from €48.75 in 2015.

Selected Regional Card market 2012-2016


Notable trends include:

  • In 2016, card payments by number and by value continued to grow higher than the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2011 and 2016.
  • Contactless cards and payments are the new normal in Europe. In addition, mobile HCE NFC payments on cards gained momentum in 2016.
  • Digital payments continued to grow, supported by the deployment of digital wallets, such as MasterPass by Mastercard, Visa Checkout, and Paylib by the French banks. Competition from card-less alternative payment services is hotting up.
  • The ‘Pays’ (Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay) launched in more countries and continued the advance 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, significantly changing the business model for many consumer card products.


In 2016, the region’s total debit card base grew by 15.8 million cards to 695.4 million, an increase of 2.3%, and CAGR of 2.5%. There are around 1.14 debit cards per capita on average across Europe. Only seven countries recorded a decline in the total number of debit cards due to consolidation of the card portfolios following the rollout of contactless cards and bank mergers. The greatest declines were seen in Latvia (-7.6%) and the Netherlands (-1.6%). Serbia, Austria, Greece, Italy, Romania and Portugal showed higher debit growth than usual.

There were 54.4 billion payments on debit cards in 2015, a 12.2% increase on 2015. All the major developed markets continued to show significant growth in the number of debit payments in 2016. The leaders, UK and France, accounted for 24.3 billion debit card payments in 2016, an impressive 44.3% of the regional total. With specific regard to Germany, 1.69 billion card-initiated IBAN-based ELV direct debits totalling €93.9 billion are not included in the debit card total.

Notable trends include:

  • All domestic debit card schemes have issued contactless cards, including girocard in Germany and TROY in Turkey.
  • Instead of pushing debit card use on the internet, leading European banks launched mobile banking apps combined with IBAN- based payments and immediate P2P money transfers.
  • In mid-2017, the Austrian e-purse Quick was phased out, leaving the German GeldKarte as the last active e-purse.


In 2016, the total credit/delayed debit card base declined by 0.5 million cards to 310.2 million, down slightly by 0.2% from 2015. 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 127.6 million credit/delayed debit cards, 41.1% of the total.

There were 12.8 billion delayed debit/credit card payments in 2016. With a CAGR of 7.1% growth over the last five years, credit/delayed debit card payments increased less than the rate of debit cards, 10.6% over the same period. In 2016, three countries – Serbia, Slovenia and Latvia – recorded a fall in the number of payments on credit/delayed debit cards.

The value of credit/delayed debit cards payments was €796.0 billion, a rise of 3.1% on 2015. The UK credit card market showed a 9.9% year-on-year growth in 2015, yet a decline of 2.0% in 2016. The value of spending on credit/delayed debit cards fell in Serbia, Slovenia and Latvia.

Notable trends include:

  • The remaining domestic credit card schemes have issued contactless cards.
  • Leading European banks launched mobile banking apps combined with HCE NFC payments on credit   cards.
  • In 2016, the domestic interchange fee cap for delayed debit/credit consumer cards stimulated credit card acceptance in many European merchant outlets.


In 2016, the POS terminal base grew across the E33 countries by 11.2% to 15.02 million (CAGR: 5.3%). The rollout of contactless POS terminals and mPOS terminals for small merchants has contributed to the stronger growth from 2015.

The total number of POS payments was 60.9 billion, up from 55.7 billion in 2015. There was an overall growth rate of 9.3% compared to 2015, again higher than the CAGR of 8.3% seen in the last five years. There were 99.5 POS payments per capita per year on average, with a statistical POS ATV of €44.69 across the E33 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 €15.2 and at the other was Italy with €72.5.

The number of POS payments per capita once again showed a range from 10.9 POS payments in Bulgaria up to extremely high 426.9 POS payments in Iceland. The Nordic countries top the table of payments at POS: Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland. They are followed by the UK, Estonia, the Netherlands, France and Belgium.

POS Terminals in Europe

Notable trends include:

  • 79.1% of all domestic POS payments on cards in Europe are now EMV transactions, according to the ECB. They include contactless payments and mobile HCE NFC payments.
  • The rollout 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 Smart (BLE) and beacon technologies.


The number of ATMs continued to decline slightly across the E33 countries covered in the Yearbook, advancing to 460,593 ATMs. Again, the decline of 0.4% from 2015 compares with an a low CAGR of 0.6% over the last five years. The number of cash withdrawals per ATM per month amounted to an average 2,519.7 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 1 million capita showed a wide range from 265.2 in mature Finland to a high 1,355.1 in Portugal.

The total of cash withdrawals by number across all the E33 countries covered in the Yearbook showed an overall decline of 0.9% from 2015 and a CAGR of 0.6% over the last five years. There were 13.9 billion cash withdrawals performed across the E33 countries. In 2016, there were 22.7 withdrawals on cards per capita, ranging from 9.3 withdrawals in Norway up to a high of 44.5 withdrawals in Portugal.

The total value of cash withdrawn declined overall by 0.9% from 2015 and a CAGR of 2.8% between 2011 and 2016. A total of €1,769.4 billion was withdrawn from ATMs across in the region in 2016, with the ATV per withdrawal being €127.05. The UK, France, and Germany accounted for 49.1% of the total of cash withdrawn by value, down from 59.4% in 2005.

ATM's in Europe

Notable trends include:

  • ATM terminals installed and cash withdrawals by number and by value continued to decline in many countries. This compares with notable higher card use, including contactless payments.
  • 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.
  • Cash advances at POS terminals have started to compete with outdoor ATMs in retail locations.


Remote e-/m-payments on the internet are indispensable parts of online sales in the European economy. Thanks to digital technologies (tablets, smartphones, mobile apps, QR-codes, 1D-barcodes, Bluetooth BLE, HCE NFC with tokenisation security), both B2C e-/m-commerce and retail outlets with POS terminals converge into an omnichannel ecosystem, including in-app payments and mobile in-store payments.

In 2016, e-/m-payments in the EU28 countries showed continued growth rates higher than 10%; and 434 million individuals in the EU28 region (83 percent) have internet access.

In Europe, the online payment mix is composed of card payments, IBAN-based payments from bank accounts, digital wallets, prepaid products and, from November 2017, instant payments.

In addition, online merchants accept traditional payments like payments-on-invoice, payments-in-advance, card-/cash-on-delivery, instalment payments, and payments-on-delivery in outlets.


The latest edition of the European Payment Cards Yearbook 2017-18 is based on end-2016 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, processors and PSPs, on cards and card-less payments, on ATM/POS payments and online payments, 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 Card Yearbook 2017-18. 




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