Will 2029 see “peak card”?

New research by Bain Consulting presented at the recent MPE conference claims the number of payment cards in circulation will peak card by 2029, followed by a decline in favour of new, fast-growing methods such as account-to-account transactions, digital wallets linked to bank accounts and other new payment types.

However, Atze Fass, Head of Payments at retailer body EuroCommerce, declared such predictions premature, noting that we are far away from the “peak oil” stage for payment cards – and that oil itself continues to be more widely produced and used today than it was in the 1950s.

Mastercard’s Chris Reid, EVP of Identity Solutions, agreed with Fass, noting any decline in the use of payment cards depends on there being better options for consumers – and that 2029 feels too soon for identify any decline.

Familiarity in a fast-changing world

Given how rapidly the payments world is changing, the challenge for any pretender to the cards throne is user comfort and familiarity – to say nothing of security.

Research undertaken by Visa during the pandemic showed that 69% of US consumers still preferred using cards for payments, notwithstanding the wide availability of digital wallets and other emerging payment methods such as account-to-account (A2A) payments.

During a panel discussion at MPE, Consult Hyperion’s David Franks said that he expected Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) to follow on from A2A payments as a fast-growing payment option by the end of this decade.

That said, the panel – comprised of representatives from US and European retailers, service providers, banks and payment systems – also identified four key elements for success when it comes to convincing consumers to adopt a new payment system.

These are consumer convenience, the consumer’s ability to control their payments, their impression of security in the payment process, and the add-on features (such as loyalty points or credit score monitoring) enabled by the payment type.

“To convince consumers, payments need to offer convenience, control, security and value-added features.”

At present, US sports network the NBA says 80% of the payments it accepts remain via card; as Atze Faas noted during the panel discussion, “it can be hard for merchants to know which payment type to support when so many are emerging”; echoing this view, Kilian Thalhammer, Head of Payments at Deutsche Bank, said that banks themselves were unsure of where to invest their money, noting that recent investments in Open Banking, Open Finance and blockchain had all yet to pay off.


An emerging consensus at this year’s MPE seems that – while there are hundreds of positive developments in payments technology out there at present – the industry faces a two-fold challenge.

Firstly, existing and emerging payment methods have yet to reach their full potential (especially when it comes to instant payments) and secondly, fraud risk is now becoming so serious we might, as an industry, be better served by securing and optimizing the payment methods we have – including cards – before looking towards far-off horizons.

When it comes to cards, virtual cards have undoubtedly breathed new life into the format, especially with  business-to-business and corporate cards, while cards with new security features, better memory and more functions are also reinventing the method’s utility.

Finally, the sustainability of physical cards has also improved markedly, with leading card producer Tietoevry Banking claiming three-quarters of its card production employed sustainable materials. Given these facts, and continued growth in usage, the payment card is a long way from dead.


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