Voice of the Industry

An overview of payment methods in Poland

Thursday 2 May 2019 10:03 CET | Voice of the industry

Janusz Diemko discusses the payment methods that are popular at physical POS and in ecommerce across Poland and the key payment trends in this space

Poland’s electronic payment market opened up relatively recently, after communism was overthrown in 1989. Prior to this, cards were accepted at merchants frequented by foreigners (hotels, restaurants, car rental) since the 1960s, but the first internationally branded card was issued by a domestic bank only in 1991.

Poland’s payment market has been characterised by a high growth in issuance of EMV and contactless cards, transactions, POS terminals, and ease as well as speed of adoption of innovative technology for various reasons:

No inherited payment infrastructure (commercial banking began in 1989), allowing the implementation of modern banking systems from scratch;

National Bank of Poland (NBP) – debit/credit card numbers (contactless #),

card volumes on POS and ecommerce

Modern banking systems allowed a speedy migration from magnetic stripe to EMV (0-100%, 1999-2014) and to contactless issuance and POS acceptance (0-100%, 2007-2018). Chart 1 (National Bank of Poland – ‘NBP’ data) presents the growth in cards, including contactless, 2004-2017;

No inherited cheque culture (cheques were issued in the early 1990s in small numbers), allowing a smoother consumer adoption of cards;

Consumers’ propensity to adopt novel payment technologies, partly pushed by a need to throw off the legacy of the past to catch up with the West;

Card schemes providing significant financial support for issuance and acceptance, allowing Poland to be a test bed for new products and ideas.

NBP Payment Survey Data 2016 – POS and ecommerce volume by payment methods

POS and retail

At the end of 2018, there were approximately 800,000 POS terminals and 300,000 merchants. NBP’s 2016 payment instrument usage report (Chart 2) shows that cash payments were the largest, most significant payment type, at 57% of retail volumes (75% if we exclude non face-to-face payments using ACH), with cards at 17% by value.

Cash continues to exhibit a downward trend in spend and by 2018 experts estimate it at 50% of retail spend, which is still significant for many reasons, such as:

Habit – especially of the 25% still unbanked;

POS penetration relatively low, at 16,000 devices per million (EU average – 26,000); gap between merchants with cash registers (1,2 million) to only 800,000 POS devices.

Mobile payment methods are proliferating and growing with the entry of Apple Pay, Google Pay in the market, but as these are all in essence tokenised NFC cards payments, they are included in the card numbers.

Since 2015, BLIK (similar to UK’s ZAPP – one time 6 digit code-based transaction on real time payment rails) has gained 9 million1 customers from 15 banks, with 5,1 million transactions at the POS in 2018, exhibiting a 100% growth year on year. Moreover, the announced cooperation with Mastercard enabling BLIK to become contactless at the POS is expected to ensure significant future growth.


There were approximately 40,000 card merchants and 90,000 total merchants at the end of 2018, with estimates of the total 2018 market at approximately PLN 50-60 billion. Payment Methods Report 2018 forecasts the market will grow by 90% by 2023, to PLN 118 billion, with mcommerce growing from PLN 12 billion to PLN 39 billion (19% to 33% share).

NBP data from 2015-2016 (Chart 2) shows pay-by-links (PBL) as the main payment instrument by value (similar to iDEAL; paying directly from customers’ own banking website as a step in the payment process), with a 39% share, for reasons of habit and perceived security, as no card info is input or transferred to merchants or acquirers. The major downsides are the lack of chargebacks and a slow, clunky, inefficient user experience. This is followed by ACH payments, at 35% (initiated separately from the purchase transaction), then cards 14%, and cash on delivery 14%, which has significantly declined over the last years. Card spend increased to PLN 11,3 billion2, driven by increasing numbers of mobile wallet users (Visa Checkout, Masterpass, PayU, and Apple Pay/Google Pay). SMS premium is a niche product for certain segments with direct carrier billing non-existent. BLIK is also making significant inroads in ecommerce due to ease of usage and superior customer experience, growing from 0% to 10% share – 2014-2018.

The IGE (Izba Gospodarki Elektronicznej – Electronic Trade Institute)/Gemius 2018 survey3 regarding consumers in ecommerce reports 40% possess and use cards, 34% internet bank accounts, 25% BLIK, and 8% Apple Pay/Google Pay. In 2017, IGE estimated that more than 750,000 cards are connected to mobile devices for payments (NFC/cards in wallets or on file), with 50% of card transactions made in this manner.

Overall, the Polish market still exhibits high usage of cash, but on a continued downward trend. Experts forecast increases in electronic payments, driven by demographic changes (millennials mobile and contactless payment propensity), price to merchant with BLIK and PSD2 instruments driving down costs, and streamlined consumers’ user experience via BLIK and mobile payments. When it comes to POS, the government’s merchant device subsidy programme is planned to drive significant terminal growth (of up to 500,000 POS by 2022), which coupled with 100% issuance/acceptance of contactless will drive usage across Poland in all segments (especially the area of smart city – transport, vending, parking).

1. BLIK Press Release and NBP transaction data

2. NBP data

3. https://eizba.pl/rodzaj_cbw/raport/

About Janusz Diemko

Janusz Diemko is a Supervisory Board Member at Paylane-Polskie ePlatnosci, with 20 years of experience in payments, previously at Euronet and First Data. He has worked in a variety of roles, from finance, sales, M&A to management and consulting across CEE, the Baltics, and CIS – in POS/ecommerce acquiring, card issuing, and ATMs. He holds Board positions at Ipopema, IQ Partners, and is an angel investor through HedgehogFund. He is also Chairman of the Polish Acquirers Association.

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Keywords: Janusz Diemko, Poland, payment methods, POS, ecommerce, payment trends, overview
Countries: World