“A few days ago we installed a card terminal (POS) to meet rising demand for payments in plastic money. Many of our customers considered it a prerequisite to come back to us to be able to pay using a card,” says the owner of a small seaside taverna on the island of Santorini.
On another Aegean island, Astypalea, one employee says: “Visitors used to ask us if there is an ATM on our island; now they ask if there are POS at rooms to let, stores and other businesses. Demand is huge.”
The numbers confirm these testimonies: In the last year some 150,000 POS terminals have been added to the Greek market, raising their total to over 300,000, from some 160,000 in June 2015 when the government imposed the capital controls.
Card terminals are now installed even at businesses that never used to accept plastic money, such as tavernas, small retailers, drugstores, kiosks, taxis, as well as by self-employed professionals such as doctors, lawyers, engineers etc.
Converging estimates collected by Kathimerini point to the potential for an additional 150,000 POS terminals in the Greek market, taking into account the country’s tourism market, to reach a total of around 450,000 terminals at least. This figure will not take long to be reached. Nevertheless, much as the use of cards in Greece has increased in the last 13 months, it continues to considerably lag other European countries, showing the potential for growth in the sector.
In 2015 every Greek accounted for an average of 20 card transactions per year (not including ATM cash withdrawals), up from eight transactions in 2014, and an average of 93 transactions per European Union citizen (in 2014).
Total turnover through cards issued in Greece amounted to 9 billion euros – or 818 euros per citizen – in 2015, against 4.7 billion – or 428 euros/citizen – the year before that, and an average of 3,947 euros/citizen in the EU in 2014. This means that transactions by card almost doubled within a year in Greece, while remaining way behind the EU average.
According to the latest official data, there are some 15 million cards (credit, debit and prepaid) that are active and circulating in Greece, issued by the local banks. This amounts to a mean rate of 1.4 cards per citizen, which is very close to the EU average of 1.5 cards per citizen.
In end-2015, data showed that debit cards accounted for 81 percent of all circulating cards, while credit cards saw their share shrink to 19 percent, as Greeks have clearly shifted toward debit and prepaid cards.