CM Magazine


The European region, which consists of all EU countries, the United Kingdom, Russia, Turkey, former Soviet countries and other European countries, experienced 1% growth over the prior year in 2018 and remained number three globally in unit volume at 6.1 billion cards, coming in behind Asia Pacific and North America in cards manufactured and in cards personalized and fulfilled.

Europe’s dollar revenue for cards manufactured in 2018 decreased 3.2% from the prior year. At $4.23 billion, it was the second largest global dollar market in 2018.

Traditional card (magnetic/barcode/other) units decreased 3% to 2.43 billion cards as the region continues to adopt higher-valued smart chip cards. Chip card units increased 3.8% over the prior year with 3.67 billion smart cards manufactured in 2018. The revenue for cards manufactured in this region in 2018 revealed traditional card revenue decreased .6% to $313 million and smart card revenue decreased 3.4% to $3.92 billion. This is primarily a result of declining chip prices and severe competition.

The personalization and fulfillment sector added $2.03 billion in card services in 2018, which is an increase of 4.1% over the prior year.

The Financial, Retail & Gas card market segments continue to be impacted by the penetration of chip cards. Retail and gas card units declined 3.8% to 500 million cards in 2018 and their dollar revenue declined 22.7% to $384 million. In 2018, the financial card market segment was the second largest European unit market segment with a decrease of 3.8% from the prior year to 895 million cards. The financial card market segment was also the third largest market segment to decrease in dollar revenue, losing 20% from the prior year for a total of $724 million. This is a result of falling chip prices and price compression on chip cards.

The SIM card market segment was the largest European vertical market segment in both units and dollars in 2018 with 900 million cards manufactured, which is an increase of .6% over the prior year. Dollar revenue in this market segment decreased 9.6% from the prior year to $895 million, mainly because of rapidly declining chip costs and severe competition. Threats to this market segment include embedded SIMs and slowing demand for phone upgrades.

Transportation card units in this region totaled 855 million cards in 2018. Access Control card units totaled 346 million cards. These market segments experienced robust growth over the prior year with 7.5% and 8.1% increases respectively in total units. Transportation card revenue totaled $403 million and access control card revenue totaled $160 million in 2018, which amounts to 9.8% and 7.4% increases respectively. This growth is driven by contactless chip cards and conversion of hotel card door keys to chip cards.

Government & Health card units increased 9% to 850 million cards and their revenue grew 17.4% to $1.438 billion over the prior year, which makes this market segment the largest European vertical dollar market segment and the fourth largest unit market segment. Growth in this market segment is fueled partly by government and consumer demands for more sophisticated and secure cards. The “open loop”

Gift card units increased 6.3% to 505 million cards and their revenue increased 7.1% to $45 million in 2018. Europeans are embracing gift cards with consumers preferring impactful physical cards for gifting. Threats to this market segment include less expensive imported cards and digital gift card adoption.

Europe continued to see the Prepaid Phone, Loyalty Promotional and ID Membership card market segments decline in 2018 as alternative technologies and applications are displacing these cards. Prepaid phone card units decreased 9.7% to 700 million cards and their dollar revenue decreased 6.1% to $62 million. Loyalty promo card units decreased 2.5% to 195 million cards and their dollar revenue decreased 16.4% to $46 million while the number of ID membership card units fell 3.7% to 103 million cards and their dollar revenue remained flat at $13 million.

The European card industry’s revenue in 2018 was comprised of $4.23 billion in cards manufactured and $2.03 billion in personalization and fulfillment services for a total of $6.26 billion, which was down 1.1% from 2017. The European region has the second largest global card market dollar share with 23.8%, coming in behind Asia Pacific with 42.6%. North America is in third position with a 20.2% global share.

The outlook for 2019 and beyond is that the European region will experience selective limited or flat unit and dollar growth, which will be driven by the penetration of chip cards and cards with additional security features. There are some vertical market segments that will transition better than others. Staying abreast of these trends and strategically positioning your business while adapting to change will keep your business on the road to success. Cards will be here for many more years to come! The card manufacturing industry is alive and well!

All of the data for these reports have been garnered from primary and secondary research and statistical modeling. ICMA makes every effort to ensure that the information presented is reasonably correct and complete. ICMA does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the data presented and cannot be held liable for the use of or reliance on the information presented.

ICMA members can download the complete 2018 Global Card Market Statistics Report and the 2018 Global Personalization & Fulfillment Market Statistics Report in the member’s-only section of Non-members can purchase the reports by emailing

About the Author: Al Vrancart is founder emeritus and industry advisor of ICMA. With more than 40 years of business experience, Vrancart previously served as president/CEO of NBS and Qualteq. His guidance and counsel has helped ICMA and other industry associations implement growth initiatives effectively and successfully. He is a frequent presenter/speaker at card manufacturing industry events. He is particularly focused on global and regional industry market statistics, metrics and trends.