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May 13, 2020updated 14 May 2020 2:05pm

Norway: payment system BankAxept dominates debit card market

By Evie Rusman

Payment cards reign supreme in Norway, with few individuals using cash on a daily basis, and most holding at least three cards. This is the result of a robust economy, an efficient domestic debit card scheme in BankAxept, and a banked population of 99.7%.

Ready access to formal financial services has resulted in a population that is highly comfortable with payment cards both in store and online. At the core of the payment market is consumers’ embrace of debit cards and BankAxept. Electronic payments have also gained ground due to the government’s substantial investments in building long-term infrastructure for cashless transactions.

Contactless card numbers and use have seen healthy growth in the past few years, with the vast majority of contactless users in the country seeing the cards as helpful.

Affordable and widely available financial products, the growing presence of digital-only banks, consumer preference for e-payments, a competitive marketplace, and a transparent business environment will aid the move to a cashless society.

The frequency of debit card payments in Norway stood at 318.7 in 2019 – one of the highest in the world. The high use of debit cards is mainly due to the growing preference among Norwegians for cashless payments. Higher fees on ATM withdrawals have also pushed debit card use.

The growing use of debit cards at POS terminals has been supported by BankAxept’s zero-interchange-fee model, which enables merchants to accept debit cards at lower costs. To drive debit card use, BankAxept offers contactless debit cards that enable holders to make payments of up to NOK400 ($46.22) without entering a PIN.

Although penetration of credit and charge cards is high, use remains stubbornly low: these cards accounted for just 21.5% of the total card payment transaction value in 2019. However, as the debit card market gradually heads towards saturation, credit and charge cards are proving increasingly lucrative for banks.

Credit and charge cards registered strong review-period growth in terms of card payment volume and value, supported by a growing e-commerce market and increased overseas spending. According to GlobalData’s 2019 Banking and Payments Survey, credit and charge cards accounted for 35% of the total e-commerce transaction value in 2019.

E-commerce in Norway rose from $11.7bn in 2015 to $21.1bn in 2019, at a CAGR of 15.9%. Norway registered the highest average spending per capita of $3,925 in 2019 among all Nordic countries. Growth was supported by high internet and smartphone penetration, and online events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The availability of alternative payment solutions including PayPal, Vipps, Masterpass, Klarna and Apple Pay will support growth going forward.

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