In 2011, the number of payment cards worldwide rose 12 percent to 8.9 billion. More than half of this increase was attributable to growth in China, where card issuance extended to rural communities and migrant workers. This is one of the key findings in the RBR study, "Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts 2011-2016."
The report found that more than half of the 900 million new cards issued in 2011 carry the UnionPay logo, and the scheme now accounts for 32 percent of cards in circulation worldwide. Still, UnionPay trails Visa and MasterCard in terms of volume and value, and has a much more limited global presence.
Last month World Trade Organization (WTO) found China to have discriminated against foreign schemes in favor of CUP for yuan denominated payment cards issued and used in China. The ruling is expected to lead to increased competition eventually, although a likely appeal will delay change.
Among other observations in the RBR study:
- Domestic-only bank and private label cards comprise 18 percent of cards, down from 20 percent in 2010. Although there was a decline in the private label sector, this was not the case for domestic-only bank cards.
- Domestic schemes have been established recently in two large markets: In April 2011, Elo was rolled out in Brazil with cards aimed at low-income customerss. In early 2012, India launched RuPay, which boasts lower fees than Visa or MasterCard.
- Debit card numbers soared by 16 percent in 2011, as government-backed campaigns in developing markets helped bolster bank account numbers. Prepaid cards showed similar growth, though from a much smaller base.
- 2011 also marked the return to growth of the credit card sector, following a contraction in 2010. However, in some countries, including the U.S., the number of credit cards declined.
- The volume of card payments increased by 13 percent to 167 billion in 2011. Usage in North America and western Europe is more than twice as high as the global average, as consumers are accustomed to using their cards, and acceptance networks are well developed. Other regions lag behind due to limited acceptance and ingrained habits of making payments with cash.
- Despite economic woes of the last few years, the global cards market continues to thrive. Issuers, acquirers and schemes can look to the future with confidence as barriers to competition are lowered, and card numbers and transaction volumes continue to increase.
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