Bankcard issuers in Europe are upgrading cards from Maestro and Electron -- particularly debit cards -- to MasterCard and Visa, taking advantage of the wider acceptance the latter brands now enjoy worldwide, according to the RBR report, Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2022.
Upgrading allows issuers to increase the number of merchant outlets in which their cards can be used -- particularly for online payments -- to increase transaction volumes and revenues.
The move is also popular with their customers, who increasingly expect to pay by card, RBR said. The number of Maestro and Visa Electron cards dropped 2 percent and 10 percent respectively in 2016, while MasterCard and Visa issuance grew by grew by 9 percent and 6 percent.
Overall, the number of payment cards in Europe grew 2 percent in 2016 to 1.5 billion. The number of MasterCard-branded cards (including Maestro and MasterCard Electronic) grew to 691 million, a share of 45 percent.
The Visa family of cards (including Visa Electron and V PAY) accounted for 44 percent. Private label cards held a share of 6 percent and domestic cards represented 4 percent of the total.
Domestic schemes are in decline in Europe, according to RBR. Where they do exist, they often coexist with an international scheme on the same card. The domestic scheme is typically used for payments within the country of issuance, while the international scheme is used for all other payments.
These "dual-badged" cards are widespread in several of Europe's larger markets, including France, Germany and Italy.
Domestic schemes accounted for 25 percent of all card payments in Europe in 2016, and have increasingly tried to keep up with international schemes with features such as contactless functionality and e-commerce capability, according to the report.
MasterCard and Visa will remain the largest schemes in Europe, but may see increased competition from newer players, RBR.
"2016 proved to be another strong year for MasterCard and Visa in Europe, with both schemes witnessing solid growth in card issuance," said Daniel Dawson, who led the RBR study. "It will be interesting to see if this continues, particularly in light of the emergence of UnionPay, which almost doubled its presence in Europe last year."
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