UnionPay knocks Visa off top spot for global payments

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China’s UnionPay has knocked Visa off the number one spot when it comes to card payments globally. That’s according to a new report from RBR, which says Visa has had the biggest scheme globally since 2010, UnionPay is handled more by value of card payments in 2015.

Card payments at a glance
> Payment cards in circulation globally up 8% to 13bn in 2015
> Rate of growth slowed from 11% in 2014, due to China
> UnionPay, Visa & MasterCard accounted for 89% spending worldwide

Overall, the number of payment cards in circulation climbed 8% in the space of the year, hitting a total of 13 billion. That number sounds big, but the rate of growth is actually slowing, down from 11% in 2014. That’s down to a slowing in the expansion of the Chinese market, which had been seeing runaway growth.

According to RBR, Middle East and Africa as well as Asia-Pacific saw the fastest rate of growth in card numbers, climbing 13% and 10% respectively. A specific factor driving the growth in this region can be attributed to efforts to boost financial inclusion and bring in people who have traditionally been locked out of the financial services market for the first time.

When it comes to where those payments are taking place, Visa, MasterCard and UnionPay account for the majority (89%) of spending globally. UnionPay is now the biggest scheme by the value spent on cards, accounting for 37% of the $21.6 trillion spent last year. That’s up from a share of 32% a year earlier and puts it ahead of Visa with 32% and MasterCard with 20%.

In terms of number of cards, the report says UnionPay has been the biggest scheme since 2010, hitting 5.3bn branded cards by the end of last year and accounting for 41% of the global card base.

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