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Tuesday 11 December 2018


Card issuers ‘expand Maestro & Electron upgrade’

Written by Chris Lemmon

European card issuers are taking advantage of the wider acceptance enjoyed by Mastercard and Visa by pushing ahead with the upgrade of Maestro and Electron cards, new RBR research has found.

The ‘Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2022’ study found that by doing so, issuers are increasing the number of merchant outlets in which their cards can be used – particularly for online payments. This move is also popular with their customers, who increasingly expect to pay by card.

The RBR figures showed that the number of Maestro and Visa Electron cards fell by two per cent and 10 per cent respectively in 2016, while Mastercard and Visa grew by nine per cent and six per cent.

The overall number of payment cards in circulation in Europe grew by two per cent in 2016 to reach 1.5 billion. According to the research, the number of Mastercard-branded cards (including Maestro and Mastercard Electronic) grew to 691 million; a share of 45 per cent. Visa’s share (which includes Visa Electron and V PAY) accounted for 44 per cent, giving the two international schemes a collective share of 89 per cent of all European payment cards.

Aside from the big two international schemes, private label cards held a share of six per cent at the end of 2016, while domestic cards represented four per cent of the total. The report found that domestic schemes are on the decline in Europe, despite the brands’ best efforts to keep up with international schemes in recent years through enhancing the ways in which their cards can be used. For instance, in Germany and Denmark, contactless functionality has been added to the domestic brands, and in other cases, steps have been taken to add e-commerce capability.

The rapid issuance of Mir cards in Russia and the emergence of TROY in Turkey, however, is bolstering the number of domestic cards in these markets. But in Serbia, the number of DinaCard cards has been declining for several years, and looks set to continue doing so. According to issuers, the domestic scheme is increasingly struggling to compete with the enhanced marketing and PR budgets of Visa and Mastercard.

RBR noted that although Mastercard and Visa are and will remain the largest schemes in Europe, they may see increased competition from newer players. Daniel Dawson, who led RBR’s study, commented: “2016 proved to be another strong year for Mastercard and Visa in Europe, with both schemes witnessing solid growth in card issuance. It will be interesting to see if this continues, particularly in light of the emergence of UnionPay, which almost doubled its presence in Europe last year.”

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