Payments Landscape in Bulgaria: Opportunities and Risks to 2022

Payments Landscape in Bulgaria: Opportunities and Risks to 2022


Consumers in Bulgaria are still predominantly reliant on cash, while payment cards are mainly used as a means to withdraw cash from ATMs. In 2018, cash accounted for 78.8% of total payment transaction volume, with consumers frequently using cash for day-to-day, low-value transactions. This is mainly due to limited payment infrastructure, limited public awareness of electronic payments, and low acceptance of payment cards at merchant outlets.

However, government initiatives (including ensuring access to basic bank accounts for all individuals and migrating payment cards to EMV standards) coupled with banks’ and payment companies’ promotional strategies led to payment card transaction volume and value recording robust compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) during the review period (2014-18e).

Almost every Bulgarian holds a debit card. In September 2016 the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) (the country’s central bank) introduced regulation to provide access to basic bank accounts to all individuals. The accounts must provide features such as deposits, cash withdrawals, direct debits, a debit card, and internet banking. As a result, debit cards are by far the preferred card type for payments, accounting for 75.6% of total card payments by value in 2018.

Bulgarian consumers are increasingly adopting contactless payments. Contactless payment cards - first introduced in the country by First Investment Bank (Fibank) in 2011 - are now offered by all of Bulgaria’s major banks. As per Mastercard data, as of August 2018 49% of card-based payments at retail outlets in the country were made using a contactless payment card - meaning every other transaction is contactless.

Bulgaria’s e-commerce market is small; with spend per capita of $80.8 - the lowest among its peers. However, with rising internet penetration and the increasing popularity of online shopping among millennials, the country’s e-commerce market is expected to record a a CAGR of 10.7% over the forecast period. Cash on delivery remains the preferred e-commerce payment tool in Bulgaria. Other popular methods used for online purchases include credit cards, virtual cards, and alternative payment solutions such as PayPal and paysafecard.

The report Payments Landscape in Bulgaria: Opportunities and Risks to 2022, provides detailed analysis of market trends in the Bulgarian cards and payments industry. It provides values and volumes for a number of key performance indicators in the industry, including cash, cards, credit transfers, and direct debit during the review-period (2014-18e). The report also analyzes various payment card markets operating in the industry and provides detailed information on the number of cards in circulation, transaction values and volumes during the review-period and over the forecast-period (2018e-22f). It also offers information on the country's competitive landscape, including market shares of issuers and schemes. The report brings together research, modeling, and analysis expertise to allow banks and card issuers to identify segment dynamics and competitive advantages. The report also covers detailed regulatory policies and recent changes in regulatory structure.

The report provides -

  • Current and forecast values for each market in the Bulgarian cards and payments industry, including debit and credit cards
  • Detailed insights into payment instruments including cash, cards, credit transfers, and direct debit. It also, includes an overview of the country's key alternative payment instruments
  • E-commerce market analysis
  • Analysis of various market drivers and regulations governing the Bulgarian cards and payments industry
  • Detailed analysis of strategies adopted by banks and other institutions to market debit and credit cards
Companies mentioned: OTP Bank, KBC Bank, UniCredit, Central Cooperative Bank, Eurobank, Fibank, Access Finance, Visa, Mastercard, BORICA

  • In a bid to alter its market share in the country, BORICA launched national card scheme Bcard in July 2017. At present, over 20 payment services providers issue Bcard in Bulgaria. To increase international acceptance of Bcard, BORICA partnered with China UnionPay in July 2018 to introduce co-badged cards.
  • American Express exited the market in 2017. In July 2017, Postbank - which was the sole issuer of American Express cards in Bulgaria - ceased both issuance and maintenance of American Express-branded cards. The bank’s existing American Express cards were replaced with Mastercard-branded cards, which boosted Mastercard’s credit and charge card share.
  • To offer convenient fund transfers, the European Payments Council introduced the SEPA Instant Credit Transfer system in November 2017, which enables individuals to transfer a maximum of €15,000 ($17,183.22) within 10 seconds. Funds can be transferred instantly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. To date, payment solutions provider iCard is the only company in Bulgaria that has registered for this service.
Reasons to buy
  • Make strategic business decisions, using top-level historic and forecast market data, related to the Bulgarian cards and payments industry and each market within it.
  • Understand the key market trends and growth opportunities in the Bulgarian cards and payments industry.
  • Assess the competitive dynamics in the Bulgarian cards and payments industry.
  • Gain insights into marketing strategies used for various card types in Bulgaria.
  • Gain insights into key regulations governing the Bulgarian cards and payments industry.

Market Overview
Executive Summary
Card-based Payments
E-commerce Payments
Alternative Payments
Payment Innovations
Payments Infrastructure & Regulation

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