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MasterCard and Visa dominate Europe’s cards market, report

Of the 1.5 billion payment cards in circulation in Europe at the end of 2014, providers MasterCard and Visa are increasing their share of the market and now account for almost 86% of all payment cards in Europe.

A report, Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2020, by banking and payments consultancy RBR, found that domestic and private label card schemes are losing market share to the 'big two'. It showed that €9 out of every €10 spent using a payment card in Europe was made on a Visa or MasterCard-branded card. Cards were used in Europe for payments worth €2.9 trillion in 2014.

Visa accounted for 42.9% of payment cards in Europe and MasterCard's share was 42.6%. According to RBR, Visa is the largest scheme in 19 European countries, while MasterCard is the largest in the remaining 14.

American Express, Discover, JCB and UnionPay have less than 2% of the market, while domestic bank card schemes or private label cards have a significant but declining share.

In terms of the value of payments via card, Visa accounts for 54% of card expenditure.

Share of cards by scheme in Europe, 2014

The report also showed that MasterCard is gaining ground in Russia and Ukraine in terms of card numbers, while American Express and Discover are typically used for higher value payments.

Importantly, interchange fees will no longer be a significant differentiator for card schemes, with the introduction of new EU caps of 0.2% for debit cards and 0.3% for pay-later cards.

RBR stated 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”.

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