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Report: The European payments landscape for 2023

Summary of Development

Payments Cards & Mobile’s exclusive annual review of European payments data from 33 European countries confirms the growth of online payments versus in-person, as well as the dominance of debit cards – and a surprising return to popularity for cash.

In many ways, we’re only now coming to see what the world looks like after COVID. There’s an appreciable return to normality, whether in sports, theatres, restaurants or working life.

Likewise in payments, our annual survey of data from 33 countries in the Payments Cards & Mobile Yearbooks shows sharp reversals in certain areas – while the impact of other long-standing trends has been redoubled by the pandemic.

At a time of massive change, it can be easy to lose sight of the fundamentals.

While there’s no doubt new payment types such as instant account-to-account payments, request to pay and others are making huge inroads into traditional methods such as cards and cash, this year’s data confirms the primacy of cards – and specifically debit cards – as Europe’s leading way to pay.

Cards make up 57.3 percent of all cashless payments, with credit transfers and direct debit payments responsible for more than 40 percent of the remainder. The number of cards in circulation last year grew by 20 percent more than the long term average, at 5.18 percent, while spending on cards shot up by 16.35 percent – more than three times the long-term average.

While some of this growth can be explained by the pandemic and consumers shopping more online, cards are still preferred to – for instance – digital wallets.

Further underlining the preference for cards is the fact that card use continues to grow faster than the number of cards – not only are there more cards, but they are being more widely used.

For some years now, debit cards have pulled away from credit as a payment method. Payments Cards & Mobile’s Yearbooks confirm this trend as accelerating.

Debit card payments shot up by 19.3 percent, more than double their long-term average and almost twice the rate of credit card payments. Average transaction value per transaction dropped less quickly in the past, confirming the universality of debit card use.