Financial Cards and Payments in Western Europe

November 2021

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has resulted in a significant speeding up in the move away from cash, as consumers and retailers tried to avoid handling it, particularly in the early days of the pandemic. This has therefore been providing strong impetus for contactless payments, seen as a hygienic means of paying for goods and services, as well as further strong growth in e-commerce, with consumers locked down for extended periods in their homes or trying to avoid public places during the pandemic.

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Key Findings

COVID-19 accelerates the move away from cash

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact in 2020, with consumer payments seeing their first significant decline since 2009, when the after-effects of the 2008 financial crisis were still being felt. Both consumers and retailers were trying to avoid using cash, switching to card or contactless payments. Consumer payments will return to positive growth in 2021, albeit remaining below pre-pandemic levels. M-commerce has continued to boom during the pandemic.

Debit favoured over credit for contactless card payments

Credit transaction value recorded a steeper decline than debit in 2020. Debit cards are generally preferred for replacing small-value cash purchases when making contactless payments. In addition, the pandemic’s economic impact in 2020 meant that consumers were a little more reluctant than usual to rack up more credit on their cards and were generally sticking to smaller, more essential purchases. In spite of the continued presence of COVID-19, more of a sense of normality has been returning in 2021, helped by widespread vaccination programmes, with credit cards expected to outperform debit in this year.

Smartphone payments continue to rise

The dynamic growth of m-commerce continues unabated in Western Europe, driven by the rise of contactless mobile payments and the increasing use of the smartphone as a shopping device. While some countries, such as Sweden or the UK, are particularly advanced in this area, adoption even in cash-dominant countries is also accelerating, with further impetus provided by the pandemic.

EPI and PSD2 could drive market changes

The Revised European Payment Services Directive (PSD2) and the European Payments Initiative (EPI) are likely to help drive changes and new developments in Western Europe’s payment landscape in the coming years.

Introduction

Scope
Key findings

Regional Overview

Western European performance continues to struggle
Card payment transactions return to positive growth in 2021
Immediate return to positive growth in 2021
No let-up in the move from cash to card payments
Attraction of contactless payments rises during the pandemic
Cash losing out to electronic and card payments
Debit cards continue to dominate, store cards in decline
Germany sees strong growth for credit, debit and charge cards
Mobile payments continue to thrive during the pandemic

Leading Companies and Brands

Financial card operators a highly concentrated landscape
National operators dominate in many local markets
Visa and Mastercard putting pressure on local operators
Greater convenience offers issuers and operators a path to growth

Forecast Projections

Immediate return to positive growth rates from 2021
Pandemic speeds up the move away from cash
Card payments will continue gaining share
Instant payments pose a threat to sustained card payment growth
Dynamic growth rates will gradually start to slow
M-commerce maintains its dynamism during the pandemic

Country Snapshots

Austria: Market Context
Austria: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Austria: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
Denmark: Market Context
Denmark: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Denmark: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
France: Market Context
France: Competitive and Retail Landscape
France: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
Germany: Market Context
Germany: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Germany: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
Greece: Market Context
Greece: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Greece: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
Italy: Market Context
Italy: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Italy: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
Netherlands: Market Context
Netherlands: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Netherlands: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
Norway: Market Context
Norway: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Norway: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
Portugal: Market Context
Portugal: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Portugal: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
Spain: Market Context
Spain: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Spain: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
Sweden: Market Context
Sweden: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Sweden: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
Turkey: Market Context
Turkey: Competitive and Retail Landscape
Turkey: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
UK: Market Context
UK: Competitive and Retail Landscape
UK: Consumer Payment Transactions and M-Commerce
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