SEPA 101

SEPA payments by the numbers

Victor Mithouard
October 2022
min read

Since the first SEPA payment method launched in 2008, the euro value of SEPA payments has grown rapidly and they dominate today the eurozone payment landscape by payment value.

In this article, we look at the state of the overall eurozone payment landscape. We also examine where, by volume and by value, SEPA payments fit in compared to other common payment methods in the eurozone, while looking at the progress made by the newer SEPA payment methods.

A note about SEPA statistics

Payment statistics in the SEPA are maintained by the ECB and published every year in July for the previous year. There are some limitations to this data when it comes to understanding payments executed throughout SEPA. There is no data available for SEPA direct debit B2B as well as SEPA instant credit transfer payments. Additionally, payment statistics for euro payments in non-euro countries and non-European Economic Area countries are not available.

2021 Payment Landscape

In 2021, the total number of non-cash payments in the eurozone, including all payment methods, increased to 114.2 billion, up 12.5% from 2020. The corresponding total value increased to €197.0 trillion, up 18.6% from 2020.

The number of credit transfers within the euro area increased to 25.1 billion (up 8.6%) and their total value increased to €184.2 trillion (up 19.3%). The number of direct debits within the euro area increased in 2021 to 23.2 billion (up 5.8%) and their total value increased to €7.3 trillion (up 11.1%).

Card payments accounted for 49% of the total number of payments, while credit transfers accounted for 22% and direct debits for 20% of all payments.

Credit transfers accounted for the largest value at 184 trillion and 93% of the total value sent. The next two largest payment methods are direct debit (accounting for 4% of total value) and cards (2% of total value).

Eurozone 2021Number of payments (in Billion)Share of number of PaymentsValue of payments (in Trillion Euros)Share of value of paymentsValue per payment (in Euros)
Credit Transfers25.122%184.293%7,350
Direct Debits23.220%7.34%316

Source: European Central Bank Statistical Warehouse, 2021

SEPA Payments 

In 2021, SEPA credit transfers and SEPA direct debits core accounted for respectively 96% and 99% of all transfers and debits sent in the eurozone in volume. The remaining payments are being processed on other payment schemes. While they were mostly initiated electronically (only 6% of credit transfers are initiated through paper or in-person orders), 55% of SEPA credit transfers were executed through single payments orders (including online banking), while 94% of SEPA direct debit were executed in a file and batch manner.

Credit Transfers Direct Debits
Total Number of Payments (in Billion) 25.1 23.2
% SEPA Payments 96% 99%
% Initiated Electronically 94% 100%
% File / Batched-based 40% 94%
% Single Payments (All) 55% 6%
% Single Payments (Online Banking) 15% 0%

Source: European Central Bank Statistical Warehouse, 2021

In 2021, SEPA payments were processed by approximately 3,900 direct and indirect participants registered with the European Payments Council. As expected given their maturity, SEPA credit transfer and SEPA direct debit core schemes have the largest numbers of registered participants.

SEPA SchemeNumber of Participants
Credit Transfer3,872
Direct Debit Core3,100
Instant Credit Transfer2,360
Direct Debit B2B2,646

Source: European Payments Council, July 2022

SEPA Credit Transfer and SEPA Direct Debit trends

The number of SEPA credit transfers grew by 5.8% per year between 2017 and 2021. Combined with a 2.1% annual growth in average payment size, the total value of SEPA credit transfers grew by 8% per year over the same period. On the contrary, SEPA direct debits saw a slower growth of 3.8% per year, while the average size of a direct debit declined by 0.8% per year, resulting in a 3% annual growth in total value of SEPA direct debits. Both payment methods grew slower than card payments over the period, at 8.8% per year. 

20172018201920202021CAGR 17-21
Credit Transfers (in Billion)
Credit Transfers (€, in Billion)135.7134.0142.3154.5184.28.0%
Value per Credit Transfer (in Euros)6,7746,3896,3686,6917,3502.1%
Direct Debits (in Billion)20.020.421.021.923.23.8%
Direct Debits (€, in Billion)
Value per Direct Debit (in Euros)295300304276286-0.8%

Source: European Central Bank Statistical Warehouse, 2021

Emerging Payment Methods

To capture early trends on emerging payment methods not captured in the ECB data, we can look at the data of individual CSMs. Looking at EBA Clearing CSMs STEP1, STEP2, and RT1, which accounted for 50% of the value payments in the EU in 2020, SEPA instant credit transfer is currently the fastest-growing payment method among payments processed by EBA Clearing. With the introduction of TIPS by the Eurosystem allowing for indirect participants, the growth of SEPA instant credit transfer is likely to accelerate.

H1 2021-H2 2022 Growth
EBA Clearing PaymentsIn VolumeIn Value
SEPA Credit Transfer7.0%17.1%
SEPA Direct Debit Core5.3%11.1%
SEPA Direct Debit BtoB6.6%29.4%
SEPA Credit Transfer Instant46.5%50.7%

Source: EBA Clearing, Jan 2021-July 2022

Integrate SEPA payments in your product with Numeral

Though SEPA payment volumes continue to grow year-on-year, there are nonetheless integration challenges that put a brake on adoption, especially on newer payment methods like SCT Instant requiring a paradigm shift in payment systems.

At Numeral, we have developed a single API providing programmatic access to all the SEPA schemes offered by your banking partners.

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