Within France, there were approximately 85.5 million bank cards in circulation in 2013. Of these, around 68.4 million were interbank cards (Cartes Bancaires, MasterCard, Visa) and the remainder were privately issued.
Of the three leading credit card schemes in France (Visa, MasterCard and Cartes Bancaires), Cartes Bancaires is the most popular, occupying over 50% of the French credit card market.
Cartes Bancaires (CB) is a French interbank payment scheme which requires a connection with a local acquirer. Transactions generated under this method are sent through the Carte Bancaire network which uses a closed French infrastructure, as opposed to being processed through Visa and MasterCard international networks as is the case in many other locations where credit card transactions are commonplace.
Importantly, CB cards are frequently co-branded with Visa or MasterCard. Where a French consumer holds such a co-branded card, international e-merchants can accept e-payments through existing MasterCard and Visa connections for cross-border online payments.
When targeting French customers, offering the CB family prominently on your online shop is a necessity for achieving respectable customer conversion rates. CB represents more than 8 billion transactions, 130 payment institutions and nearly 60 million cardholders. What’s more, CB handles both credit card and debit card payments; Carte Bleue is a French debit card payment scheme that forms part of the CB interbank family.
Paypal is by far the most popular e-money payment service in France, and currently stands as the second most-used payment mechanism in the territory, after bank cards. There are currently over10 million French consumers using this service to purchase goods online. Like most e-wallets, Paypal’s service allows shoppers to complete their transactions without having to expose their card details online, and offers users the option to pay using their account balances, bank accounts or credit cards.
Overall, with the exception Paypal, French consumers do not frequently use alternative payment methods
Bank transfers, also known as virement bancaire in France, are not overwhelmingly used by consumers to pay for goods in France. More typically they are used by individuals to pay bills, rent, or transfer money into a savings account, though they are frequently used by companies to pay for goods and services.
Mobile purchasing is still not occurring overwhelmingly in France; in fact, purchases made via mobile devices only accounted for around 22% of total e-commerce in the first quarter of 2015 – well below the global average. Despite this, the ecosystem for mobile payments is developing rapidly.
The dominance of credit cards – in particular Cartes Bancaires, Visa and MasterCard – means that mobile payment systems in France are still heavily reliant on the bank card system. Many customers simply view payments via mobile as an extension of their payment cards, as opposed to alternative payment methods in themselves.
However, recent dedicated initiatives have been designed to promote m-commerce. These include Buyster, Cityzi, Kwixo, Kix and S-money. Allopass, which specialises in pay-per-phone and pay-per-SMS is also a notable mobile payments service in France.
Mobile payments at the point-of-sale (mPOS) are becoming increasingly popular in this territory, and increasing numbers of merchants are accepting them (currently >60%). Orange Cash, a recent and popular introduction, for example, acts as a prepaid Visa card which can be accepted at any Visa contactless payment terminal.
The legislation and tax applicable to you when selling to French consumers will vary depending on whether you are an EU incorporated entity.
French consumers are efficient online shoppers who place great value on the accessibility of information and are very likely to shop around for the best deal.
Low-cost or free delivery options have been reported to be the most influential factor for French consumers.