Card usage grows at a higher speed than card numbers due to contactless technology and wider acceptance at payment terminals.
According to RBR’s study, the proliferation of contactless technology and the increasing frequency of contactless payments, especially for low-value purchases, have been key to the growth of card payments in many mature markets.
In France, both banks and the government have actively pushed the technology to reduce cash usage and encourage efficiency, while the UK has seen a rapid increase in contactless payment acceptance matched by growing cardholder confidence in the technology.
The total number of card payments worldwide increased by 14% to 310 billion in 2016, notably higher than the 8% increase in card numbers, according to RBR’s Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2022.
In all regions, consumers are increasingly choosing cards to make purchases. RBR has found that while growth in the number of card payments outpaced growth in the number of cards in virtually all markets, local factors were key in boosting specific fast-growing markets.
A well-publicised demonetisation exercise in India contributed to a rapid rise in card usage, while high inflation and wider card acceptance have led to the increasing use of card payments in Iran. In Russia too, increased acceptance by SMEs and microenterprises, in addition to loyalty programmes incentivising debit card payments, contributed to the significant rise in card payments.
RBR forecasts the total number of card payments worldwide to reach 483 billion by 2022, a 56% rise compared with 2016. This is more than double the rate of growth in card numbers, which are projected to increase by 22% over the same period.
All regions will see faster growth in card payments than in card numbers. In both the Middle East and Africa (MEA) and central and eastern Europe (CEE), RBR projects the total number of card payments to more than double between 2016 and 2022.
People in these regions do not use cards frequently for payment in comparison to North America and western Europe. RBR’s research suggests that financial inclusion programmes and rising card acceptance in developing markets will be a common factor in increasing consumer use of payment cards.
In more mature markets, growth will be characterised by local regulations mandating card acceptance for a widening range of merchant sectors, and also by further penetration of contactless technology for lower-value payments.