Nilson Report

Issue 1154 | May 2019


Companies featured in this issue include:

Global Card Brands in 2018—Ranked by Purchase Transactions

Global Cards in Circulation Credit & Debit 2018

Global General Purpose Cards 2018

Purchase Transactions on Global Cards 2018

Purchases by Card Type 2017 vs. 2018

Global Debit & Prepaid Cards 2018

Global Credit Cards 2018

Consumer ACH Transactions in the U.S. 2018

Global Cards in Circulation Credit & Debit 2018

As of December 31, 2018, there were 13.19 billion payment cards in circulation worldwide carrying UnionPay, Visa, Mastercard, JCB, American Express, and Diners Club/Discover brands.

1. UnionPay
57.6% share
2. Visa
24.7% share
3. Mastercard
15.3% share
4. JCB
1.0% share
5. American Express
0.9% share

Full access to the Global Cards in Circulation Credit & Debit 2018 results is available when you subscribe to The Nilson Report.



Global Cards—2018

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

Cards carrying the brands of American Express, Diners Club/Discover, JCB, Mastercard, UnionPay, and Visa combined generated 368.92 billion purchase transactions for goods and services in 2018, an increase of 24.9% over 2017. Purchase transactions included all consumer and commercial credit, debit, and prepaid products. (Prepaid cards are included with debit cards.)

Visa cards accounted for 44.84% of all global brand general purpose card purchase transactions worldwide in 2018, a decline from 50.07% in 2017. Debit cards from Visa generated 27.75% of worldwide purchase transactions, down from 30.56%. Credit cards with the Visa brand accounted for 17.10%, a decline from 19.51%. 

UnionPay brand cards generated 26.66% of global brand general purpose card purchase transactions, up from 19.85%. Credit cards with the UnionPay brand generated 13.72%, an increase from 10.16%. UnionPay debit cards had a 12.93% share, up from 9.69%. 

Mastercard cards generated 24.46% of the global brand purchase transaction total, a drop from 25.55% in 2017. Mastercard debit cards held a 13.07% market share, a decline from 13.11%. Credit cards with the Mastercard brand held a 11.39% share, a decline from 12.44%. 

American Express had a 2.26% share, down from 2.55%. JCB had a 1.04% share, down from 1.14%. Diners Club/Discover had a 0.74% share, down from 0.84%.

Debit and prepaid cards accounted for 53.75% of purchase transactions in 2018, up from 53.35%. Visa purchase transactions were 61.88% debit, up from 61.03%. Mastercard purchase transactions were 53.43% debit, up from 51.30%. UnionPay purchase transactions were 48.51% debit, down from 48.81%.

Total volume, comprised of purchases for goods and services combined with cash advances and withdrawals, totaled $33.730 trillion in 2018, up 19.1%. Visa and Mastercard combined accounted for 50.94% of total volume, down from 54.89%. 

Purchase volume for goods and services, which excludes cash advances on credit cards and cash withdrawals on debit cards, was $28.361 trillion in 2018, an increase of 22.5%.

UnionPay debit cards generated the most purchase volume, followed by UnionPay credit cards, Visa credit cards, Visa debit cards, Mastercard credit cards, Mastercard debit cards, American Express cards, JCB cards, and Diners Club/Discover cards. 

UnionPay cards accounted for $50 of every $100 last year versus $45 in 2017. Visa and Mastercard combined accounted for $45 of every $100 in purchase volume in 2018 versus $49 in 2017. Visa accounted for $29 of every $100 versus $32 the prior year. Mastercard accounted for $15 of every $100 down from $16.

Visa credit cards accounted for 56.17% of its purchase volume, down from 56.77%. Mastercard credit cards accounted for 64.98% of its purchase volume versus 66.79% in 2017. UnionPay credit cards accounted for 46.53% of its purchase volume, up significantly from 38.73% in 2017.

When comparing credit card purchase volume only, UnionPay’s share increased 893 bps to 41.71%. Visa’s market share of 29.93% was down 469 basis points (bps). Mastercard’s share declined 250 bps to 17.99%. American Express’s share dropped 125 bps to 7.46%. JCB’s share slipped 28 bps to 1.81%, and Diners Club/Discover’s share fell 20 bps to 1.09%. 

When comparing debit card purchase volume, UnionPay’s share increased 53 bps, and its 59.19% share was up from 58.66%. Visa’s share declined 98 bps to 28.84%, and Mastercard’s share increased 45 bps to 11.97%. 

Cash advances on credit cards and cash withdrawals on debit cards combined totaled $5.369 trillion. They declined as a percent of total volume to 15.92% from 18.26%. For Mastercard, cash accounted for 26.49% of its total volume, down from 27.19%. For Visa, cash accounted for 25.98%, down from 27.71%. For Diners Club/Discover, cash accounted for 8.12%, down from 8.30%. For UnionPay, cash accounted for 5.63%, down from 7.59%. For JCB, cash accounted for 2.37%, down from 2.60%. For American Express, cash accounted for 0.65%, down from 1.06%.

At the end of 2018, global brand credit, debit, and prepaid cards in circulation reached 13.19 billion, an increase of 10.4% from 2017. UnionPay cards were up 13.5%. Mastercard and JCB were both up 11.6%. Diners Club/Discover increased 8.1%. Visa increased 3.6%. American Express cards were up 1.1%.

UnionPay’s market share of all global brand cards in circulation was 57.60%, an increase from 56.04% at the end of 2017. Visa’s share was 24.77%, a decline from 26.40%. Mastercard held a 15.33% market share, an increase from 15.18%. JCB’s share was 0.96%, up from 0.95%. American Express accounted for 0.86%, a drop from 0.94%. Diners Club/Discover’s share was 0.48%, a decline from 0.49%.

The number of debit cards in circulation grew by 1.03 billion. The market share of debit cards of total cards in circulation was 77.46%, up from 76.89%. Credit cards grew by 212.8 million and accounted for a 22.54% market share, down from 23.11%.

For UnionPay, debit cards accounted for 90.97% of the brand’s worldwide card base, a decline from 91.21% at the end of 2017. For Visa, debit cards accounted for 66.03% of the brand’s worldwide card base, an increase from 65.87%. Debit cards accounted for 56.77% of all Mastercard cards worldwide, an increase from 55.20%. 

Credit cards issued in the U.S. with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover brands combined accounted for 23.47% of global credit card purchase volume, a drop from 27.28%. Purchase volume on credit cards issued in the U.S. grew by 9.7% in 2018. Purchase volume growth for credit cards issued outside the U.S. was 34.2%, led by UnionPay’s 62.3% increase.

For Visa, credit card purchase volume from cards issued inside the U.S. grew 10.1% while from those issued outside the U.S. grew 10.4%. At Mastercard, credit card purchase volume from cards issued inside the U.S. grew 9.1%. Those issued outside the U.S. increased 13.1%.

Visa credit card purchase transactions from cards issued in the U.S. reached 23.88 billion, up 8.3%. Visa credit cards issued outside the U.S. grew 10.2% to 39.19 billion. Mastercard purchase transactions from credit cards issued in the U.S. were up 8.8% to 9.07 billion. Mastercard credit card purchases from cards issued outside the U.S. reached 32.95 billion, up 16.0%.

For American Express, credit card purchase volume from cards issued inside the U.S. grew 9.8% compared to 8.0% growth from cards issued outside the U.S. Credit card purchase transactions were up 9.4% from cards issued inside the U.S. and up 9.3% from cards issued outside the U.S. 

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