Financial Cards and Payments in Eastern Europe

November 2021

Financial cards and payments were significantly impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19) in 2020, with the pandemic still affecting the industry in 2021. However, after the decline in consumer payment transactions value in 2020, a return to positive growth will be seen in 2021, paving the way for a stronger recovery in 2022. The pandemic, with its lockdowns and retail/foodservice closures as well as a general fear of handling cash, has provided further impetus towards card and contactless payments.

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Key Findings

COVID-19 hits consumer spending

Consumer spending patterns in Eastern Europe were significantly affected by the pandemic in 2020. When possible, people avoided handling cash for hygiene reasons, encouraging greater use of card and, in particular, contactless payments. Debit cards were the main beneficiary of this, with people looking to keep control of their spending in what was a difficult economic environment.

Pandemic sees a major decline in cash usage

While cash remains an important payment mode, it continues to lose out to alternative forms of payment. This development is also being supported by growing merchant acceptance of card and contactless payments as well as, in many cases in 2020, an increase in the maximum contactless spending limit on cards. Consumers are therefore increasingly being won over by the convenience of cashless payment methods, particularly via their smartphones. Government policies are also generally encouraging the trend towards cashless transactions.

Sberbank the number one card issuer

As the clear leading financial card player in Russia, Sberbank therefore also remains the number one card issuer in Eastern Europe, in terms of both number of cards and transaction value. Its Spasibo programme continues to gain new partners (merchants). After a major relaunch in July 2018, Sberbank again updated and relaunched Spasibo in mid-2019 in an attempt to simplify terms of use for consumers and increase bonuses.

Return to growth from 2021

In spite of the economic impact of COVID-19, the post-pandemic period is expected to see a return to positive annual growth rates for consumer payments. Cards and electronic direct/ACH transactions will enjoy healthy growth rates, while m-commerce will be most dynamic but cash will continue to struggle.


Key findings

Regional Overview

Pandemic reduces overall consumer payment transactions
Card payments continue to grow during the pandemic in Eastern Europe
Bounceback expected after COVID-19-induced spending decline
Card transactions continue to take share from cash
Card payments double as cash usage is halved in Russia in 2016-2021
Cards and electronic direct/ACH transactions continue gaining share
Debit cards add the bulk of new value in 2016-2021
Strong pre-paid cards growth in Romania
Pandemic further encourages the use of m-commerce payments

Leading Companies and Brands

Visa and Mastercard remain the dominant financial card operators
Could NSPK/Mir threaten the dominance of Visa and Mastercard?
Visa and Mastercard with a wide presence across the region
NSPK’s launch of the Faster Payments System helps drive Mir growth

Forecast Projections

Consumer payments return to positive growth in 2021…
…but will not return to 2019 levels until 2023
Debit cards will continue to dominate over the forecast period
Contactless payments will continue to grow in the coming years
Although m-commerce growth rates will slow over 2021-2026…
…they will still be very dynamic over the forecast period

Country Snapshots

Czech Republic: Market Context
Czech Republic: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Czech Republic: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
Hungary: Market Context
Hungary: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Hungary: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
Poland: Market Context
Poland: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Poland: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
Romania: Market Context
Romania: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Romania: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
Russia: Market Context
Russia: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Russia: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value
Ukraine: Market Context
Ukraine: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Ukraine: M-commerce and Consumer Payment Value


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