The number of cards in Europe grew by 2% in 2016 to reach 1.5 billion at the end of the year, according to a new report.
The Payment Cards Issuing and Acquiring Europe 2018 report from RBR found that Western Europe accounts for two thirds of this total, and central and eastern Europe (CEE) the rest.
The two regions saw similar growth in 2016; for CEE this was faster than in 2015, while it slowed in western Europe. CEE features a number of markets which are still developing and where a large number of people do not have a payment card.
In Western Europe, conversely, most people already have at least one card, and issuers are looking to contactless to keep their card businesses growing.
RBR’s report shows that there were 480 million payment cards in CEE at the end of 2016. There were a large number of new cards in Russia, where there is still a significant number of people who do not have a bank account.
However, political and economic difficulties in Ukraine and the withdrawal of nearly all prepaid cards in Kazakhstan put a brake on overall growth in the region.
Western Europe is a mature payments market where the total number of cards increased to 1.0 billion at the end of 2016. With the exception of Denmark, France and the Netherlands, every western European market grew in 2016.
In the Netherlands, banks have been closing inactive accounts, whilst in France, the once dominant private label cards sector is under pressure, and contracted. Greece was the region’s fastest-growing market, as a limit on the value of cash cardholders can withdraw from ATMs has boosted the debit card sector.