Nilson Report

Issue 1191 | Feb 2021


Companies featured in this issue include:

U.S. General Purpose Brands–Purchase Volume in 2020

U.S. General Purpose Cards with Change vs. 2019

U.S. Credit Card Outstandings with Change vs. 2019

Market Shares of Purchase Volume on General Purpose Cards in the U.S.

General Purpose Credit Cards in the U.S.

Purchase Volume on Mastercard and Visa Credit and Debit Cards

Visa vs. Mastercard Credit and Debit Cards in Circulation 2010-2020

Credit, Debit & Prepaid Cards

Debit & Prepaid Cards

Investments & Acquisitions–January 2021

Credit Card Outstandings in the U.S.

Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover credit card outstandings at year-end 2020 declined 14.9% from 2019 to $866.28 billion.

$418.05 billion, -15.0%
$274.78 billion, -15.5%
American Express
$101.99 billion, -17.5%
$71.47 billion, -7.4%

Full access to the U.S. Credit Card Outstandings in 2020 results is available when you subscribe to the Nilson Report.



General Purpose Cards—U.S. 2020

Please note: Only subscribers can access the charts included with this article.

Consumer and commercial credit, debit and prepaid cards issued in the U.S. carrying Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover brand cards generated $6.749 trillion in purchase volume (spending for goods and services) in 2020, an increase of 0.8% over 2019. 

Credit card cash advances as well as debit and prepaid card cash withdrawals are not included in purchase volume.

Debit and prepaid card purchase volume at Visa grew 15.2% to $2.231 trillion. Credit card purchase volume at Visa declined 7.2% to $1.939 trillion. At Mastercard, credit card purchase volume fell 7.9% to $837.17 billion, while debit (including prepaid) card purchase volume at Mastercard increased 14.6% to $907.71 billion. 

Amex purchase volume declined 16.2% to $691.52 billion. Purchase volume at Discover slipped 2.3% to $142.80 billion.

Combined credit, debit and prepaid purchase volume market share for Mastercard increased 46 basis points (bps) to 25.9%. Discover’s share declined 7 bps to 2.1%. Combined credit, debit and prepaid purchase volume market share at Visa increased 168 bps to 61.8%. At American Express, market share declined 207 bps to 10.2%. 

Mastercard and Visa debit/prepaid card purchase volume at $3.139 trillion was up 15.0%. Visa’s market share of 71.1% increased 10 basis points over 2019.

Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover credit card purchase volume of $3.611 trillion dropped 9.0%. Mastercard’s share increased 29 bps to 23.2%, Visa’s share grew 108 bps to 53.7%. American Express fell 164 bps to 19.2% and Discover increased 27 bps to 4.0%. 

Outstanding receivables on Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express consumer and commercial credit cards declined to $866.28 billion by the end of December 2020, a drop of 14.9% from 2019. All brands experienced declines. Discover, which fell 7.4%, performed better than the other brands. 

Mastercard and Visa purchase transactions on debit and prepaid cards grew to 69.63 billion, an increase of 2.7%. American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa credit purchase transactions fell by 6.8% to 41.39 billion.

The market share of debit and prepaid card purchase transactions as a percent of all credit and debit/prepaid card purchase transactions increased 230 bps to 62.7%. 

The market share of debit/prepaid card total transactions versus combined credit and debit/prepaid total transactions was 64.0% for 2020, an increase of 203 bps over 2019. 

Purchase volume on debit cards of $3.139 trillion equaled 46.5% of combined credit, debit and prepaid purchase volume, an increase of 576 bps from 40.7% in 2019. 

The average purchase amount for a credit card transaction in 2020 was $87.22, down 2.4% from $89.41 in 2019. At American Express, the average amount was $111.30. Visa’s average credit card amount was $84.23. For Mastercard the average amount was $87.78 and at Discover it was $54.43.

The average debit card purchase amount was $45.08 in 2020, up 11.9% from 2019. The average debit card amount on Visa cards was $45.47. For Mastercard, the average was $44.15. 

Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover card merchant acceptance locations experienced nearly 12% growth in 2020, fueled by the significant number of new online businesses opened in response to Covid-19 restrictions on in-store gathering. New outlets also included growth the number of mobile devices used as POS terminals by small entrepreneurs selling goods and services for the first time. 

Not included in the acceptance locations shown in the table on page 7 are 600,000 ATMs and 80,000 bank and credit union branches where cardholders can get cash. 

Prior issues: 1169, 1147, 1125, 1103

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