Despite increasing enthusiasm for internet retailing and the rising use of card payments over cash on delivery, a traditional preference amongst Greek consumers, the use of open loop pre-paid cards online (cardholder not present) remained much lower than physically presenting cards at a POS, due to the growing popularity of using debit and credit cards for shopping online, despite pre-paid cards being a safe payment tool as they are not linked to a personal account. The use of pre-paid cards online is also hampered by strict regulation such as terrorism and money laundering.
The newer category of closed loop pre-paid cards, which emerged in Greece mid-review period, has continued to rapidly gain in popularity with the number of cards in circulation overtaking those of open loop pre-paid cards by 2017. This was due to the adoption of the new ATH.
Government benefit cards held the remaining significant share of open loop pre-paid cards in 2019, although it continued to lose ground to general purpose reloadable cards. Demand for government benefit cards are mainly linked to the Social Solidarity Income (KEA) cards, with the last update of this programme occurring in June 2019 with KEA cards being reloaded during this period.
Piraeus Bank remained the leading issuer of open loop pre-paid cards in 2018, followed by National Bank of Greece with both offering KEA cards. Although the latter was the initial issuer of KEA (Visa) cards, Piraeus Bank was quick to gain ground offering a wider portfolio of plastic and virtual cards.
Despite some stagnation in terms of using pre-paid cards online, the concept of virtual cards could gain some dynamism with the launch of the innovative Bleep card in 2018 which is powered by Alpha Bank, and operated by Mastercard. It was awarded “Product of the Year 2019” by and IRI independent consumer survey.
As the competitive landscape of pre-paid cards intensifies, banks continue to look to offering sophisticated features such as flexibility of use, variety of choices regarding loading the cards, digital monitoring of transactions and reward schemes to attract consumers such as Cosmote Prepaid Mastercard, which enables the user to earn data for their mobile phones when they make daily purchases using the card or they can even transfer the extra data to friends or family. Co-branded cards are another strategy with Piraeus Prepaid AB Mastercard, which is part of a loyalty reward programme that offers EUR6 vouchers to consumers when they shop at the leading chained supermarket in Greece, AB.
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