Belgium’s Cards and Payments Industry: Emerging Opportunities, Trends, Size, Drivers, Strategies, Products and Competitive Landscape

Date: 2015-09

“Belgian card payments registered positive growth during the review period (2009โ€“2013), recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.30% to reach 39.1 million cards in circulation by the end of 2013. In terms of transaction value, payment cards accounted for EUR121.7 billion (US$161.3 billion) in 2013, after registering a review-period CAGR of 5.95%. The transaction value is expected to grow over the forecast period (2014โ€“2018), at a CAGR of 5.96%. Improvements to banking infrastructure and the installation of point of sale (POS) terminals at merchant outlets were the payment cards instrumentโ€™s key growth drivers. In terms of transaction value, debit cards accounted for a market share of 89% in 2013; the highest among payment cards, a situation that is expected to continue over the forecast period. Charge cards accounted for the second-highest position, followed by credit cards, while prepaid cards accounted for the lowest share of 0.2% in terms of transaction value in 2013.

During the review period, card fraud in Belgium declined at a CAGR of -6.85% in terms of transaction value, from EUR28.8 million (US$40.0 million) in 2009 to EUR21.7 million (US$28.8 million) in 2013. One of the main drivers was the implementation of EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) compliance. Belgium was one of the first single euro payments area (SEPA) countries to migrate to chip-embedded cards in 2001, and eradicated traditional magnetic strips completely. Moreover, from 2011, Belgian banks implemented geo-blocking which involves restricting Maestro functions or debit card use without chip-and-PIN verification in European countries. This helped reduce skimming activity and therefore, counterfeit card fraud declined at the highest CAGR of -18.30% of all card fraud types during the review period.

From the second half of 2008, the Belgium economy underwent a financial crisis which impacted consumer lending. In 2009, a switch took place and debit cards became more popular with consumers than credit cards. Although the credit card market grew at a review-period CAGR of 2.09% in terms of number of cards in circulation, it accounted for just 2.8% of Belgian payment cards in 2013. In 2010, all forms of consumer lending began to show signs of recovery, with the exception of non-collateral credits. This was mainly due to the adoption of a conservative approach by credit card issuers, which led to fewer non-collateral loans being issued. Over the forecast period, the Belgian payment cards system is expected to remain dominated by non-credit instruments such as debit and prepaid cards.

In terms of value, a review-period CAGR of 125.61% indicates remarkable growth in mobile payments (m-payments) in Belgium. With rising internet penetration and the adoption of smartphones, m-payments are gaining popularity. During review period, they grew from EUR3.8 million (US$5.3 million) in 2009 to EUR98.9 million (US$131.1 million) in 2013, and are expected to grow significantly at a forecast-period CAGR of 40.11%, to reach EUR703.6 million (US$991.1 million) by 2018. The increasing capabilities of smartphones and a substantial rise in mobile payment apps will further drive market growth. Belfius Bank developed an application called Bancontact/Mister Cash in collaboration with TagTagCity which enabled consumers to make payments with smartphones, tablets, and via quick-response (QR) codes. The app has been in service since July 2013. The emergence of mobile wallets is also contributing to rising adoption rates. French financial service provider BNP Paribas launched a mobile wallet in March 2013 in Belgium in collaboration with Belgian telecom operator Belgacom. The mobile wallet will integrate mobile payments, e-couponing, virtual ticketing and loyalty programs, and users will be able use the application on public transport to check timetables and purchase tickets.”

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