Mission Statement


Annual Report

Members of the Observatory

Legal Basis

Version franšaise



Article L. 132-1 of the French Monetary and Financial Code defines a payment card as "any card issued by a credit institution or an institution referred to in Article L. 518-1, which enables its holder to withdraw or transfer funds".

Consequently, the Observatory's remit covers cards issued by credit institutions or other assimilated entities that serve to withdraw or transfer funds. It does not cover the single-purpose cards that, pursuant to Article L. 511-7, 5░ of the Monetary and Financial Code, benefit from an exemption to banking monopoly. These cards are issued by an undertaking and accepted as means of payment by said undertaking itself or by a limited number of acceptors that have financial and commercial ties with the issuer.

There are several types of payment cards on the French market that come within the Observatory's remit. A distinction is generally made between cards whose payment and withdrawal procedures rely on:

  • a limited number of issuing and acquiring credit institutions (generally referred to as "three-party" cards),
  • a large number of issuing and acquiring credit institutions (generally referred to as "four-party" cards).

    These cards offer various functions and may be classified according to the following functional typology:
  • Debit cards are cards that draw on a deposit account and enable their holders to make withdrawals or payments that are debited in accordance with a timeframe set out in the card issuance contract. The debit may be immediate (for withdrawals or payments) or differed (for payments).
  • Credit cards are backed by a credit line that carries an interest rate and with a maximum limit negotiated with the customer. These serve to make payments and/or cash withdrawals. They enable holders to pay the issuer at the end of a determined period (over 40 days in France). The acceptor is paid directly by the issuer without delay.
  • National cards serve to make payments or withdrawals exclusively with acceptors established in France.
  • International cards serve to make payments and withdrawals at all national or international acquiring points managed by national acquirers or by foreign partner acquirers.
  • Electronic purses are cards that store electronic money units. Under the terms of Article 1 of CRBF Regulation 2002-13, "a unit of electronic money constitutes a claim recorded on an electronic medium and accepted as a payment instrument, within the meaning of Article L. 311-3 of the Monetary and Financial Code, by third parties other than the issuer. Electronic money is issued against the receipt of funds. It shall not be issued for an amount that is higher in value than that of the funds received".