Why is Poland a Good Market for Android Pay and Apple Pay?


Since last week, Android Pay is available in Poland. On November 17th Poland joined a club of early adopters of one of the biggest disruptions in our banking industry, as some like to call it. In the same moment, Poland became 2nd country in Europe to accept Android Pay just after the United Kingdom. And from the wider perspective, it is 6th country to adopt it after US, UK, Australia, Singapore and Hong-Kong. That is a pretty nice company to hang out! You need to admit.

As Poles we are not used to be on a podium or be in a such group of countries that share something in common from a global point of view. Moreover, despite the size (6th nation by population in the EU) we are still not really well recognisable. Well, our “kiełbasa“, “pierogi” and of course “wódka” are, but they sometimes overshadow more interesting things that Poland has to offer. Plus, there are still people out there who think that Poland is a part of Russia, and we speak Russian… Please, go back to your high school, now.

This a little bit off-topic paragraph gives basis to what I heard after the Google announcement. Couple of my international friends asked – why guys from California decided to go with Android Pay in Poland? Why it is Poland and not Spain, Germany, France or any other country in the world which they know better? I am answering that it is a matter of time when Android Pay will launch in their countries, but it took me some time to explain why Poland is a good choice for Google. If you also scratch your head for an answer, why Poland and not your country is now proudly accepting Android Pay, stay with me.

Kowalski likes his mobile banking app and is not afraid to use it

According to different sources and estimations, there is more than 14 million active users of online banking in Poland. The number is growing continuously from year to year, recently by 10% as of the second quarter of this year. The number in real life is bigger, since not all the banks provide such information. But, online banking does not have much in common with Android Pay, right? Yes, but this is first thing to show. Poles enjoy new technology, and adopt to it pretty fast. As an addition to that, number of branches represents negative trend, and they are closing one by one around the country. In first half of 2016, banks closed approximately 500 branches out of 7 thousands. People prefer to deal with their finance online, rather than wasting time in lines (yes, I’m looking right now at you Germany!).

  • Out of 37 commercial banks in Poland, 20 of them have a mobile banking app

Let us move to mobile banking. There is more than 6 million active users who login to their bank accounts via mobile device at least one time per month. Again, the number is definitely bigger, because not all the banks disclose population of their mobile users. Popularity of mobile banking comes mainly from high standards of the apps and their great functionality, usually covering all functions of the internet banking platforms. What you can do on your PC, usually can do also on mobile. Together with rising penetration of smartphones (65% by 2019), the correlation is highly positive. Poles do not only use apps to check their balance on the account, but also to make transactions, open deposits, invest, set limits for their debit cards and much more.

But, it is all about numbers, not my feeling or comments of industry experts. So, I picked up 10 biggest banks in Poland, which publish information on the number of their active mobile users. From a simple comparison it is clear that on average 20% of current accounts is managed through a mobile device. If you ask me, it is a significant number of customers that banks can not disregard and Google too. The leaders are mBank with 38%, Pekao 33% and BZ WBK 28%. Those customers are definitely ready for more and will not hesitate to use mobile payments. But, what about the infrastructure? Is it ready as Polish customers are? Well… The infrastructure is more ready than you think.

Nowak can pay contactless in almost all terminals across Poland

Readiness of the clients to adopt new mobile ways of payment is one thing. Another one important for this equation is readiness of the infrastructure. Android Pay and Apple Pay are useless when you can not use them in a store (yes, we are taking in-app purchases out of scope). They do not require any additional terminal or hardware to accept payment. Both companies from Silicon Valley should be definitely thankful to Visa and MasterCard. The important thing that some tend to forget is that not Apple neither Google was first to develop tap-and-pay transactions. In fact, Visa and MasterCard had been doing research and development, running pilot programs, and issuing contactless payment cards for years by the time Apple and Google started even to think about payments.

Coming back to Poland and readiness of the infrastructure. To accept Android Pay or Apple Pay in stores, we need to have a contactless payment-capable point of sale terminal. No NFC ready terminals, no business case for any of those two mobile payments methods and dozens other to come. It happens, that Poland is a leader in share of contactless ready terminals. It is estimated that at the end of June 2016 there were 425 thousands terminals adapted to contactless payments. This means that 85% of the all terminals are compatible with Android Pay and Apple Pay. The same thing is with cards. At the end of the second quarter of 2016, Poles where using approximately 28 million cards with contactless functionality, which constitute a 77% share of the total number of payment cards in Poland.


Like you see, the infrastructure is ready, and there is a huge potential there. By “potential” I mean that majority of Poles still pay by cash. But those who use cashless methods of payment adopt the latest trends pretty fast. There is a big gap between cash-lovers and fans of cashless society. Roughly, 23% of all payments in Poland are cashless. Comparing it to the Nordic countries where cashless transactions took over the cash, it is almost nothing. But from the point of view of the necessary scale that Android Pay needs, the number of customers using contactless cards in Poland is more than the whole population of Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland or even Sweden.


Android Pay will get a share of Polish market in no time

I recall a report titled “Digital Trends 2013” by Deloitte saying that Poland has been a leader of innovation in banking in comparison to other European countries, as a number of novel solutions have been introduced over the years for the benefit of Polish customers that are still not available in most Western European countries. As an example they mentioned the fast adoption of NFC. I strongly believe that that it is still a case, and Poland will adopt Android Pay in the same quick pace like it did with contactless cards. Fingers crossed!

Data source: National Bank of PolandThe Polish Bank Association

PS. Kowalski and Nowak are Polish friends of John Doe

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not reflect the view of ING Group.

About the Author

piotr jan pietrzakPiotr Jan Pietrzak is a Senior Project Specialist at ING Payments Centre, on International assignment in frames of the ING International Talent Programme, and Project Specialist / Senior Project Specialist also at ING Bank, Śląski.


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