The results of Retail Banking Research’s (RBR) latest global payment cards research provide remarkable reading. Several findings stand out, including surpassing a phenomenal eight billion cards worldwide, a fall in the number of cards in North America and more than 10% growth in the prepaid and debit card sectors. The most startling finding however, is that China’s UnionPay is now the largest payment card scheme in the world, its brand appearing on three in every ten cards worldwide.
Executives at Visa, the scheme that has been usurped at the top of the rankings, can console themselves with the news that cards with their branding are still well ahead in terms of usage and spending, and the fact that most UnionPay cards are found in China.
The new RBR research shows that there is still plenty to play for, with 20% of cards worldwide belonging to domestic bank card or private label schemes. This share is falling however, so competition for these cards plus efforts to persuade large issuers to change their scheme allegiances will only intensify.
Debit and prepaid card sectors drive card growth:
The global market is projected to expand from 8.0 billion in 2010 to 10.1 billion by 2015, as a slowdown in card issuance in the mature North American and western European regions is more than offset by rapid growth elsewhere.
The prepaid and debit card sectors each grew by more than 10% in 2010, whilst the credit card sector contracted by 6%.
Prepaid cards currently represent just 3% of the global total, but their numbers are increasing rapidly. They are perhaps most commonly viewed as a payment instrument for those with little or no interaction with banks and as a means of paying salaries and benefits – as for example in Colombia and Brazil. This type of card has also found favour with foreign workers in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where they are used to make remittances back to family members in foreign countries. Prepaid cards have also been rolled out, however, in significant numbers in some countries where bank account holding is high and this trend looks set to continue. For example, in New Zealand, hosting the 2011 Rugby World Cup has given rise to the issuance of prepaid cards for use at stadia during the competition. The share of prepaid cards is expected to rise to 5% by 2015.
Although debit cards make up 62% of the card base worldwide – a share that has risen by four percentage points since 2009 – there is still considerable potential for further growth. Government campaigns to promote financial inclusion and the increasing tendency for employers to pay salaries electronically will drive bank account holding, boosting debit card issuance. The share of debit cards is forecast to increase by a further percentage point by 2015.
Credit cards are likely to see a revival, but their share will continue to decline:
The share of credit cards declined by four percentage points to 28% in 2010, principally because of the large fall in numbers in the USA, where many accounts with overdue debt were closed and large numbers of inactive cards were taken out of circulation. Credit cards are expected to see a revival over the next few years as confidence is restored following the financial crisis. Greater regulation of the sector, such as in Brazil and Mexico, will lead to a rise in transparency and therefore make customers more comfortable with holding and using such cards.
There are nevertheless various factors which will continue to restrict growth in credit card numbers. In immature markets, there is a scarcity of central credit bureaux and a reluctance of banks to issue credit cards as they consider the risk too great. Even though credit card numbers are likely to rise over the next five years, their share of payment cards is forecast to fall by one percentage point to 27% by 2015, as the prepaid and debit card sectors will see faster growth.
For more information on the findings from "Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts 2010-2015" please contact Chris Herbert or visit rbrlondon.com/.