Mastercard launches the Digital Payments Index (DPI), a methodology that tracks the evolution of digital payments, nationwide. After its successful launch in Hungary in 2021, the index has been replicated this year in six other countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Serbia and Romania, analysing data recorded in 2021.
The Digital Payments Index looks at the development of the local electronic payments market, reported on three sub-index assessed on a scale of 1 to 100, each with equal weight in the final score:
Infrastructure, a sub-index that tracks the readiness of existing infrastructure and its ability to enable electronic payments;
Knowledge, a sub-index that looks at consumer knowledge and understanding of electronic payments;
and Usage, sub-index showing the adoption of digital payments and their position compared to cash.
In 2021, the Romanian Digital Payments Index scored 54 out of 100 points, a result calculated from the individual scores of the three sub-index: 69 for Infrastructure, 49 for Knowledge and 44 for Usage.
“Electronic payment methods have diversified and gained significant ground in recent years as a result of the activities of ourselves, issuers, partners and regulators. However, cash still plays an important role in the economy and in the payment habits of Romanian consumers. In order to understand the drivers of this industry, it is important to look at market developments, consumer expectations and user knowledge. The Digital Payments Index responds to this need and provides a holistic view of these data categories. We hope it will be a valuable tool for all our partners, from industry players to companies, institutions and administration, in setting their goals and agenda,” said Cosmin Vladimirescu, Country Manager Mastercard Romania and Croatia.
Growth space on all three sub-index
The score of 69 out of 100 points for Infrastructure indicates that there is a good basis for development, but solid investment is still needed to grow the electronic payment infrastructure in Romania. And the main directions for action are to increase the banked population, digitise consumers and merchants, including through the development of the acceptance terminal network, bring new payment technologies to the market and step up regulatory efforts.
The level of Knowledge was rated at 49 out of 100 points, which leaves significant room for improving attitudes and skills in the use of existing digital payment methods among Romanians. As knowledge is generally acquired over a longer period of time, there remains great potential for growth in this pillar.
The score of 44 points obtained for Usage is mainly due to the strong position of cash in Romania and the general reluctance of consumers to give it up. The result indicates that the availability of digital payment solutions is not, in itself, sufficient to boost consumer adoption. There is much room for improvement, as well as significant potential to familiarise users with the digital payment methods on the market and their benefits for users.
Romania’s position compared to other countries in the region
The DPI 2021 report also contains a comparison module between the countries analysed, for an additional perspective on the level of development in each of these markets.
The overall country scores range from 45 to 61 points, with an average of 56 points among the seven countries analysed. The highest score was achieved by Croatia, with 61 points, followed by Austria and Greece, tied with 60 points, with the top three being completed by Hungary with 58 points. Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia are next with 54, 53 and 45 points respectively. The variation is primarily driven by the scores for Infrastructure, the sub-index where countries scored best, implying that most have a solid foundation for digital payments.
The first component within the sub-index was cashless infrastructure, where account and card penetration was high (exceeding one per adult) in every country, a result relative to the total adult population, not just the banked population. In most countries there is still much potential for improving the level of acceptance. The availability of payment solutions, the other major component of the sub-index, is largely driven by the regulatory environment (such as the implementation of PSD2 in the EU) and the high coverage of contactless technology in the countries concerned. Higher scoring countries have many mature payment solutions available in terms of infrastructure. For example, contactless technology has become standard in the countries surveyed, while most still show growth potential in newer payment solutions.
The Knowledge and Usage sub-index scored lower in all markets analysed, suggesting that it takes time for payment solutions to be adopted to a greater extent by consumers once they have been introduced in a given market.
Methodology of the Digital Payments Index
The index aims to provide an annual holistic picture of payments, both quantitatively and qualitatively. This study combines statistical data from public sources and Mastercard data for the year 2021, with the findings of primary research conducted by Mastercard in early 2022.
The study focuses on payments made by local consumers and therefore analyses transactions with local payment methods (the use of accounts and cards), which includes both domestic and cross-border transactions.
The index is structured in three layers: indicator, component and sub-index. An indicator, the most granular element of the model, is a measure that analyses a particular angle of payment performance. All indicators were indexed on a scale of 1 to 100 and then aggregated into components to condense the information from individual KPIs. The components were weighted to form three sub-index, which were considered equally important and therefore weighted equally in the calculation of the overall index.
The consistency of the index results was checked in all countries to ensure reliability.