UnionPay takes top spot from Visa in $22 trillion global cards market

Having been the largest scheme worldwide for card numbers since 2010, UnionPay overtook Visa to also become the largest by value of card payments in 2015

Payment cards worldwide increase by 8% to reach 13 billion in 2015

New research from RBR shows that the number of payment cards in circulation worldwide increased by 8% last year to 13 billion. Although still impressive, the growth rate fell from 11% in 2014, following a slowdown in the expansion of the Chinese market. The fastest growth in 2015 was seen in the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific where card numbers rose by 13% and 10% respectively, driven in particular by financial inclusion initiatives.

UnionPay, Visa and MasterCard account for 89% of worldwide expenditure

According to RBR’s Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2021 study, China’s UnionPay is now the largest scheme in terms of value of card payments, with a 37% share of the $21.6 trillion spent in 2015, up from 32% in 2014, and ahead of Visa (32%) and MasterCard (20%). UnionPay has been the largest scheme for card numbers since 2010 and, by the end of 2015, there were 5.3 billion UnionPay-branded cards, accounting for 41% of the card base worldwide.

UnionPay, Visa and MasterCard account for 89% of worldwide expenditure, with the remainder made up by T&E schemes (American Express, Diners Club and JCB), Discover and domestic-only bank and private label cards. There are, however, significant regional and country level differences; for example, Iran consists entirely of domestic scheme cards, as a result of international sanctions and JCB accounts for 22% of expenditure in its home market of Japan.

 

Visa and MasterCard are by far the largest international schemes outside of China

While UnionPay’s growth is impressive, it has been a result solely of the rapid expansion of the Chinese market. UnionPay remains a predominantly domestic scheme with a share of just 0.5% of expenditure outside of China, whereas Visa and MasterCard maintain commanding shares of 50% and 31% respectively. RBR’s Chris Herbert commented: “Despite its rapid recent expansion, increases in UnionPay’s share will be more gradual going forward as a result of slowing growth in its home market. Moreover the Chinese market is opening up to foreign players following the end of UnionPay’s monopoly on domestic bank card clearing in June 2015”.

Author: Dylan Jones

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