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Ireland Country Report

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  • Published Date: October 2019

A comprehensive overview of the cards, payments and consumer banking market in Ireland.

What you will learn from this Ireland cards market report:

How the popular enthusiasm for debit cards has affected the Irish market.
The key relationships shaping market shares for global schemes.
How stamp duty on credit cards in Ireland affects cardholding patterns.
The transformative role of contactless in Ireland.
How alternative forms of Ireland digital payment are progressing.


  • Ireland's economy has recovered well in recent years, posting the strongest growth figures in the European Union. However, uncertainty around Brexit continues to temper optimism.
  • Retail banking, consumer finance and payments in Ireland are largely dominated by the two major domestic banks: Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks.
  • The entrance of credit unions into the current account market in October 2019 will increase competition. Credit unions are highly trusted by a large segment of the Irish population.
  • There has been a clear shift away from cash to debit cards in Ireland. Debit card purchase volume doubled between 2014 and 2018.
  • Contactless has been rapidly adopted by Irish cardholders: half of all card-present transactions are now contactless.
  • E-commerce is another driver of growth in card volume. Over a third of spending on Irish cards takes place online.
  • Following a lost decade, the Ireland credit cards market is showing signs of life, with rewards offerings improving and competition returning.
  • The market for credit cards is one of the most concentrated in Europe. At the end of 2018, the top five issuers had an estimated 97 per cent market share of all credit cards in issue.
  • Mastercard is the leading credit card network, having broken Visa's long-held dominance by securing the Bank of Ireland portfolio in 2016.
  • Courtesy of agreements with most of the major banks, Visa dominates the debit card market. However, Mastercard has become the partner of choice for many of the newer entrants, such as digital banks and credit unions.

Ireland Payments Research | Report Contents

Demographics and the economy
Payments environment
Irish cards market
Mobile payments
Profit pool
The networks
Key retail banks and issuers
Acquiring and processing
Online acquiring
Regulatory and other cards market information

Appendices: Card Payments Data

Appendix I: Demographics and the economy

  • Demographic and economic indicators
  • Ownership of key consumer devices
  • Internet usage by population

Appendix II: Payments environment

  • Access points
  • Account penetration
  • Consumer payment trends
  • B2C e-commerce payment methods

Appendix III: Cards market

  • Total cards payment metrics
  • Contactless cards metrics
  • Ireland credit card data numbers
  • Total credit cards metrics
  • Credit cards profitability indicators
  • Debit cards numbers
  • Debit cards metrics

Appendix IV: Mobile payments

  • Mobile proximity payment metrics

Appendix V: Profit pool

  • Irish profit pool

Appendix VI: The card networks

  • Networks' credit card market shares
  • Networks' credit card numbers
  • Networks' credit card billed volume
  • Networks' number of credit card transactions
  • Networks' average credit card transaction value
  • Credit card interchange fees by network
  • Networks' debit card market shares
  • Networks' debit card numbers
  • Networks' debit card billed volume
  • Networks' number of debit card transactions
  • Networks' average debit card transaction value
  • Debit card interchange fees by network

Appendix VII: Retail banks and issuers

  • Key credit card issuers market shares by credit card numbers
  • Key issuers market shares in credit card outstandings
  • Key debit card issuers market shares by debit card numbers

Appendix VIII: Acquirers and processing

  • Merchant acquirer credit card market share
  • Credit card merchant service charges
  • Merchant acquirer debit card market share
  • Debit card merchant service charges
  • Credit card issuer/issuing processor relationships
  • Credit card acquirer/acquiring processor relationships
  • Credit card issuing processor market shares by card numbers
  • Credit card acquiring processor market shares by the number of POS transactions

Appendix IX: Online acquiring

Online merchant acquirer market share

Ireland Country Report | Selected Extracts

Demographics and Economy
Since joining the EU (then known as the EEC) in 1973, the country has been successful in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). Some of the largest global pharmaceutical and tech companies have based their European headquarters on the island.

Payments Environment
Ireland has traditionally been a cash-based economy; that has begun to change in recent years thanks to rapid growth in electronic payments. There has been an explosion in the use of debit cards for purchases, with contactless and e-commerce driving that growth.

Cards market
The Irish payment cards industry has enjoyed strong growth in both billed volume and transactions over recent years. The total number of payment cards in Ireland (excluding prepaid) increased 13% between 2013 and 2018; of the seven million cards in circulation at the end of 2018, almost three quarters were debit cards.

Mobile Payments
Contactless card payments have grown rapidly, but consumers have seen little incentive to migrate to mobile. In 2018 an estimated 5% of contactless payments were made via a mobile device. Google and Apple Pay are the main players in the space.

Profit Pool
While the market compares favourably to other European markets by some measures, products remain unsophisticated by international standards, with little differentiation between issuers and product lines.

Card Networks
At the end of 2018, Mastercard held an estimated 63% share of credit cards in issue, as well as an estimated 55% of billed volume. Visa is the country's largest debit-card network in terms of card numbers and billed volume ... an estimated market share of 92% both in terms of cards in circulation and billed volume.

Key Retail Banks and Issuers
Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and Bank of Ireland (BOI) are the leading retail banking players in the market: both (partially state-owned) lenders emerged from Ireland's financial crisis with a dominant position in the market.

Acquiring and Processing
Ireland's acquiring market has come to be heavily influenced by some of the largest global players, though the two leading banks maintain an interest through joint ventures.

Online Acquiring
Cards are the leading online payment method in Ireland and face limited competition from alternative payment methods. E-wallets, particularly PayPal, are the preferred alternative
to cards but account for a relatively small proportion of online spending.

Regulatory and Markets Information
Stakeholders in the country's banking and payments system are represented by the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI), a strategic and technical support body set up in 1997 to provide advice and technical support to members and to act as a forum for discussion on payment- system issues.


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