MasterCard, Visa payment card share rising in Europe

January 2016
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MasterCard and Visa now account for 86% of all payment cards in Europe, according to a new RBR report, titled “Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2020".

According to RBR statistics, 90% of the euros spent via payment card in Europe were on a Visa or MasterCard-branded card, the highest share of any region.

There were 1.5 billion payment cards in circulation in Europe at the end of 2014, and these were used for payments valued at EUR 2.9 trillion during the year.

With 42.9% of payment cards in issue in Europe, Visa is slightly ahead of MasterCard (42.6%). MasterCard’s share rose from 41.9% in 2013, as a result of a strong performance in a number of markets including Russia and Ukraine, as well as the Nordic and Baltic countries, while Visa’s share remained largely unchanged, RBR found. The company's figures show that Visa is the largest scheme in 19 countries in the region, while MasterCard is the largest in the remaining 14.

The other international schemes — American Express, Discover, JCB and UnionPay — account for less than 2% of the regional card base, unchanged since 2013.

A significant, though declining, proportion of cards are domestic bank card schemes or private label cards. The former are numerous in Russia and to a lesser extent Ukraine, which together account for more than 80% of such cards in the region, RBR said. Meanwhile, the largest European markets for private label cards are France, Spain, Germany and the UK, which make up three-quarters of the region’s private label sector. Such cards are, however, being progressively replaced by those carrying an international brand.

According to research, card schemes will be less able to compete on interchange fees than in the past due to new EU interchange caps of 0.2% for debit cards and 0.3% for credit cards. RBR believes that portfolio gains will instead be based on factors such as service levels and scheme fees, meaning that competition between the card schemes in the region will be as intense as ever.