Europe sees modest growth in payment card numbers
The number of payment cards in Europe grew 2 percent in 2016 to reach 1.5 billion at the end of the year, according to a new report from RBR, Payment Cards Issuing and Acquiring Europe 2018.
Western Europe accounts for two-thirds of the total, and central and eastern Europe make up the remainder, according to RBR. The two regions saw similar growth in 2016.
CEE includes a number of markets that are still developing and where a large number of people do not have a payment card.
Conversely, most people in Western Europe have at least one card and, in this mature market, issuers are looking to contactless to keep their card businesses growing.
The report shows a large number of new cards in Russia, where a significant number of people do not have a bank account. However, political and economic difficulties in Ukraine and the withdrawal of nearly all prepaid cards from Kazakhstan slowed growth in CEE overall.
In western Europe, card growth comes from winning business away from competitors or persuading customers to add cards to their wallet. RBR research shows that the total number of cards in the region increased to 1 billion at the end of 2016.
With the exception of Denmark, France and the Netherlands, every western European market grew in 2016, according to the report. In the Netherlands and France, specific reasons explain the decline: In the former, banks have been closing inactive accounts; in the latter, the once-dominant private label cards sector is under pressure, and contracted.
Greece was a surprise as the region's fastest-growing market. In that country, a limit on cash withdrawals from ATMs boosted the debit card use.