Payment card numbers ‘to reach 17bn by 2022’

Written by Anthony Strzalek

The number of payment cards globally reached 14 billion in 2016 and is predicted to rise to 17 billion by 2022, driven by further debit card issuance as the banked population continues to increase, a new RBR report has revealed.

The study found that the number of payment cards worldwide increased by eight per cent to 14 billion in 2016. This is forecast to rise by 22 per cent to 17 billion by 2022, driven by an increase in bank account holding in large but developing markets such as China and India.

In China it is common for consumers to hold multiple cards for different purposes and that will also drive growth in the country, RBR predicts.

The figures show that debit cards are by far the most common payment card type, making up 71 per cent of the worldwide total, up slightly from 70 per cent in 2015.

This share is expected to rise further, mainly as a result of financial inclusion initiatives in developing markets in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America. In Pakistan, for example, only 13 per cent of adults hold a bank account and a debit card will normally be the first card they will receive when they enter the banking system.

In more developed markets, growth in the number of debit cards is partly a result of issuers targeting younger customers. In the UK, for example, issuers are offering debit cards to children as young as 11 years old.

RBR’s research shows that the share of prepaid cards remained static in 2016, with the expansion of this sector in some countries being offset by a decline in others. In Vietnam, prepaid cards are gaining popularity as gift and travel cards, as they carry low risk for issuers. In Russia, in contrast, some prepaid cards are being replaced by alternatives such as debit cards and e-wallets. Russian regulations limit the amount held on prepaid accounts and prohibit their use for cash withdrawals, restricting the cards’ appeal.

Credit cards’ share fell by two percentage points to 20 per cent in 2016 and is set to continue to decline, RBR noted. In the EU, this is partly due to the interchange fee caps, which limit the profitability for card issuers, and have led to a fall in the number of such cards in some countries.

RBR’s Chris Herbert commented: “The number of payment cards issued worldwide will continue to grow steadily as more people come into the banking system. The debit card sector will see the strongest expansion in the coming years, in line with the rise in bank account holding. Credit cards, in contrast, will be impacted by regulatory and economic factors in many countries.”