A new report reveals that consumers across Europe are turning to plastic payment cards like never before.Between 2000 and 2004, the valueof consumer-held general purpose card transactions grew 39 percent, from 1.52 trillion to 2.15 trillion.
The number of card transactions and cards in issue has also grown.
There were 29.3 billion consumer payment card transactions made in 2004, up from 20.9 billion in 2000, while the number of cards in issue grew from 440 million to 584 million.
The average payment card in Europe was used over 50.1 times in 2004, up from 47.7 in 2000 while, over the same period, the average transaction value declined.
This pattern of more frequent card use and falling average transaction values reflects the fact that plastic cards are becoming more commonly used for low-value day-to-day payments.
These figures reflect a clear trend across the region towards the substitution away from cash and cheques towards card payments. Plastic cards offer a more convenient, flexible and secure means of making payments - certainly compared to other methods such as cash and cheques.
Datamonitor forecasts that by 2009, there will be 747 million payment cards in issue in Europe, and that they will be used to make 39.4 billion transactions with a value of *3.2 trillion.
The Nordic countries and Francelead the way
Plastic card use varies considerably across Europe. In markets such as Greece, Italy, and Germany, payment cards are most commonly used to make a small number of high value payments.
This largely reflects the fact that cash remains the dominant payment tool in these markets for the bulk of consumer transactions.
Indeed, a high proportion of card transactions in these markets are cash withdrawals, with cards more or less otherwise reserved for foreign travel.
In contrast, the Nordic countries and Francedemonstrate the most sophisticated card use in the region.
In each of these markets, card use is typified by very high frequency of use and low average transaction values, reflecting the fact that consumers in these markets are very comfortable in the use of payment cards for low value, day-to-day transactions.