The French and their cards, an enduring relationship

Results of the survey conducted by l’Echangeur by BNP Paribas Personal Finance

Payment, credit, loyalty programmes… how much further will card-based services go? Even in an era when everything is going digital, that little plastic rectangle in nearly every French person’s wallet has never been more popular. That’s according to the 10,500 French households quizzed as part of the survey. Cards have long been a way of cementing the mutual commitment established between retailers and their customers. The more they offer, the more people become attached to them. Advantage programmes, payment solutions and universal use are the winning trio within a range of services that cater for everyone’s day-to-day needs. And such offerings look set to become further enriched to meet the aspirations of French consumers head-on and offer ever greater satisfaction.

Analytical report available at
When quoting any of these figures, please specify the source: Echangeur by BNP Paribas Personal Finance

To anticipate the future of retail and customer relationships, l’Echangeur by BNP Paribas Personal Finance studies the consumption dynamics and decision making of French households. Every two years for more than a decade and a half, l’Echangeur has analysed the results of an exclusive survey exploring the relationship between French consumers and their cards (prepaid cards excluded). The latest wave was carried out by post by TNS Sofres (French studies institute) in January 2016. It allowed the behaviour of 10,500 households representative of the French population to be explored and the use of some 70,000 cards to be analysed.

The three key lessons to be learned from the study

The wallets of French consumers contain a combined 185 million cards, all ready to be used according to each individual’s requirements. Firmly established in the day-to-day lives of the French, these cards enable a variety of expectations to be fulfilled.
94% of card-holding households have at least seven in their possession. 85% hold at least one financial card issued by a bank or financial institution.
77% hold at least one issued by a retailer.
Representing less of a commitment than a payment card and becoming an increasingly important way of accessing special offers on top of the loyalty programmes in place, loyalty cards issued by stores (with no payment option) are held by 70% of French households.
They account for the highest volume of cards in circulation, with an average of 6.5 cards per holder.
Offering a wider range of services but entailing greater contractual obligations, payment cards issued by stores are held by 29% of French households.

12 million payment cards issued by stores are carried in French wallets. These cards are appreciated, in particular, for the wealth of services they offer, including attractive payment terms.
As a result of the Hamon Act, but also the erosion of certain card-issuing sectors (notably mail order catalogues), the proportion of French households that hold store payment cards fell from 36% in 2010 to 29% in 2016.
However, current possessors of store payment cards are more attached to them than ever: out of every 100 cards held, just 5 are not kept for long.
83% of their holders are likely to recommend them, compared with 78% of holders of standard loyalty cards.
Indeed, their respective holders’ rate store payment cards more highly than standard loyalty cards (8.2/10 vs. 7.5/10). Not only are store payment card holders slightly more satisfied with the retailers that issue them, they are especially pleased with the payment terms they offer (a service that receives the score of 7.8/10).
Whether or not individuals take advantage of these payment terms, this option is rated significantly higher than the advantages offered by loyalty programmes (the scores given to the various aspects of such programmes average out at less than 7/10).
Payment terms are an adjustment variable that tends to be used parsimoniously, but they are potentially useful at a time when just 15% of store payment cards are used to take advantage of the facility to spread payment over a year.

As the services offered through cards expand, the relationship between retailers and their customers deepens. Catering more closely to the aspirations of holders, cards will soon encapsulate the milestones of a more open retail philosophy.
Half of all store card holders declare that they are more likely to enter the stores that issued them. This particular score is up for all types of card. Notably, this testifies to the fact that their offer has shifted towards building greater customer loyalty.
The score is higher for payment cards, especially those that allow holders to use them in stores other than the issuing retailer’s.
This type of service is a notable advantage, even if it is currently only available through a limited selection of cards in circulation. Indeed, if we focus on those cards that offer this option, universal payment receives a score of 7.4/10. This places it among the most popular types of service.
The satisfaction of French consumers with a service that goes beyond the confines of a retailer’s environment, clearly demonstrates that the future of the customer relationship lies in the provision of a broader range of services. A service offering that is ever more open, so as to enhance the customer experience and ultimately win their loyalty.