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Press release of the Banco de Portugal on the Report on Payment Systems - 2019

Today, the Banco de Portugal publishes the Report on Payment Systems, which describes developments in payment systems in Portugal in 2019 and the main developments for the years ahead. In 2019 payment systems in Portugal operated smoothly, contributing to the proper functioning of the financial system and the Portuguese economy.

Retail payments in Portugal rose by 9.3% in number and 6.4% in value. 

The number of payments processed in the Interbank Clearing System (SICOI) increased in 2019, in line with the trend of previous years. SICOI, which covers retail payments in Portugal, processed 3 billion transactions, to the amount of €523.1 billion, corresponding, on average, to 8.7 million transactions per day, totalling €1.9 billion. It grew by 9.3% in number, a peak for the last five years, and 6.4% in value from 2018. 

This increase continued to be sustained by electronic payment instruments (direct debits, credit transfers, instant transfers and card-based payment transactions), which accounted for 99.1% in volume and 83.9% of the total value of SICOI.

Instant credit transfers grew by 311.8% in number and 521.7% in value, chiefly due to demand by firms.

Having been live for around a year, instant credit transfers posted very substantial growth rates, of 311.8% in number and 521.7% in value, indicating high demand for this new payment instrument by consumers and, mostly, by firms (59% of transactions were carried out by individuals and 67% of their value originated from firms). 

The use of instant credit transfers declined somewhat in early 2019, largely due to the introduction of fees by payment service providers. Since then, however, they have grown steadily, due to their increased use by firms.

The number of debit cards grew by 5.8%; credit cards reversed the trend and decreased by 1.6%.

Cards were still the most widely used instruments in retail payments (excluding cash), accounting for 86.6% of the total number of transactions processed in SICOI. Card-based transactions rose by 9.3% in number and 7.5% in value.

As at 31 December 2019, there were 24.6 million active payment cards in Portugal (issued by payment service providers operating in Portugal), which means that, on average, each inhabitant had 2.4 cards. Compared to 2018, the number of cards rose by 4.2%. 

Debit cards increased further (5.8% in 2019) and amounted to 23 million. Credit cards reversed the trend observed over the past five years and decreased by 1.6%, and, at the end of 2019, stood at 8.3 million.

At the end of 2019, there were 14.3 thousand automated teller machines (ATMs) and 367 thousand point-of-sale (POS) terminals in Portugal. On average, there were 1.4 ATMs and 35.8 POS terminals per 1,000 inhabitants. The number of ATMs reversed the downward trend seen since 2011, to rise by 1.1%. POS terminals grew at a 5.3% rate.

The use of contactless technology corresponded to 7.8% of the number of card-based purchases, doubling its weight from 2018.

In 2019 consumers began using contactless payments on a sizeable scale. This behaviour seems to have stemmed from, among other factors, an increase in the number of cards and contactless POS terminals, by 27.5% and 20.7% respectively. Purchases using contactless technology corresponded to 7.8% of the number and 3% of the total value of card-based purchases, thus doubling their weight in total purchases compared to 2018. The average value per purchase using contactless technology was €14.5, and this technology was mostly used in the retail trade and food services sectors.

Online purchases with national cards also grew: 43% in number and 28% in value, corresponding respectively to 6.3% and 7.5% of the number and value of purchases made with cards issued in Portugal. Most online purchases (80% of the number and the value) were made to foreign traders.

Direct debits and credit transfers increased in both number and value. Cheques continued to post negative rates of change.

The upward trend in the use of direct debits continued, which resulted in increases of 14.2% in number and 12.9% in value from 2018. Credit transfers also increased, by 6.1% and 8.6%, in number and value respectively.

Conversely, as in previous years, cheques posted negative rates of change, of 14.5% in number and 6.6% in value. 

The national component of the European system TARGET2 settled an amount corresponding to eight times Portugal’s GDP. 

Throughout the year, the Portuguese component of TARGET2, the European settlement system for euro payments, processed 1.7 million transactions, to the amount of €1.7 trillion, which corresponds to eight times Portugal’s GDP. 

The amount of settled transactions remained virtually unchanged (rising by 0.2%). However, the number of settled transactions reversed its growth trend observed since 2016, decreasing by 21.3%.

In 2020 the Portuguese community will effectively join the pan-European instant transfer settlement service, which will make it possible to make European-wide payments in a matter of seconds.

Major developments in payments are scheduled for 2020 and 2021, monitored by the Banco de Portugal, and which require the national banking community to adapt on time.

By end-2020, the national community will have effectively joined TARGET Instant Payment Settlement service (TIPS), the pan-European instant transfer settlement service. TIPS will supplement the national solution and make it possible to process European-wide payments in a matter of seconds.

In November 2021, a complete transformation of the Eurosystem’s technological infrastructures for the real-time gross settlement of payments is planned, by way of consolidating TARGET2 and TARGET2-Securities. All institutions must be prepared to migrate to the new platform by the planned date, on pain of being unable to settle payments in central bank money.

Still in 2020, a national strategy for retail payments will be established. This strategy is aimed at modernising retail payments in the service of citizens, firms and public administration bodies, adjusting them to market requirements and the renewed expectations stemming from technological developments.

Finally, the Banco de Portugal will proceed with its action as the competent authority for the implementation of the Legal Framework for Payment Services and Electronic Money (which transposes DSP2 into Portuguese law) and catalyst for developments in the Portuguese payments market.