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The Effects of COVID-19 on Payments

D&T
September 19, 2020

The adverse effects of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic did not have a significant effect on the domestic payments infrastructure; however, there was a substantial decline in turnover data for almost all payment methods in the second quarter of 2020.

According to a report by the National Bank of Hungary (MNB), it is primarily this what reflected consumers’ cautious approach to the restrictive measures implemented and a slowdown in the economy. As a result, growth in the volume of purchase transactions conducted with payment cards, considered as the flagship of electronic transformation in recent years, slowed significantly, within which only transactions related to online purchases appeared as exceptions reflecting the rapid increase in popularity of home delivery services and webshops. The earlier stable growth in credit transfers and direct debits also turned into a decline relative to the same period a year earlier. Presumably, there was an even stronger decline in cash transactions; therefore, the share of electronic payments may have risen to a relatively larger extent. This is also supported by the fact that the number and value of cash withdrawals fell significantly year on year. Probably as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, turnover of payment systems fell in 2020 Q2; however, payment and settlement system liquidity continued to be ample.

The number of payment accounts managed by domestic payment service providers was 10.5 million in 2020 Q2, which does not show a significant change relative to the previous quarter. There were no substantial changes
within payment accounts either. As a result, the number of customer accounts, used primarily for payment purposes, remained unchanged at nearly 6.7 million. There were no significant changes in domestically issued
payment cards. Their number was slightly below 9.6 million at the end of the period; however, due to the increase of over 237,000 in the number of contactless cards, their share within all payment cards came close to 89% indicating an increase of 2.6 percentage points relative to 2020 Q1.

Following an increase in the payment card acceptance network of domestic payment service providers in the previous quarter, the number of physical acceptance points fell again. As a result of the slight decline of nearly 2,000, their number was just over 112,000 at the end of the period. Nevertheless, the number of online acceptance points continued to rise, approaching 15,000 at the end of 2020 Q2 after an increase of nearly 6 per cent. The
positive change may have been supported by the rapidly growing popularity of different home delivery services and webshops as a result of the prolonged effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Although the number of POS terminals
operating at physical merchant acceptance points rose modestly, it remained slightly above 152,000 at the end of the period. However, due to the increase of more than 1,000 in the number of devices facilitating contactless
payments, their share of all POS terminals was over 89%.

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