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China Cards & Payments Market Report

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  • Published Date: January 2022


A detailed analysis of the cards, payments and consumer banking landscape in China, with a full analysis of market trends, both historic and forecasts to 2024.
As China's ever-swelling middle-class avails of spending opportunities, digital methods have seen massive growth, bringing with them powerful platforms with a reach far beyond their Western counterparts.
In recent years, these commercial payments ecosystems have been brought to heel as Beijing assembles a centrally-permissioned payments processing, banking and fintech system positioned to support the new Digital Yuan, which will soon be in use by the vast majority of citizens.

What you can learn from this China cards market report:

How mobile payments rose from last to first in five years.
Where a transformed Chinese lending sector is headed.
How China's credit cards market is growing more sophisticated.
What proposed regulation means for credit cards in China.


  • China's 2021 economic growth rates suggest that the country has rebounded well from the upheavals with which the decade began. However, there are strong headwinds coming from a troubled real estate sector.
  • Cash use is dwindling here, long one of the most dynamic and advanced payments markets in the world: mobile payments account for a significant portion of everyday consumer payments.
  • Some 95% of city dwellers utilise mobile payments daily, while about half of their rural counterparts also rely on them.
  • QR codes for payments are popular, with the relatively low cost of implementation for merchants being a key driver of mass adoption.
  • Facial recognition is expected to replace QR codes for payments in the medium to long term.
  • The leading fintechs have been subject to a regulatory clampdown largely prompted by fears of too-big-to-fail risks.
  • American Express, through its joint venture here, announced the issuance of its first debit card products to support renminbi transactions on its network.
  • Credit card profits grew by 9% in 2020, a marked slowdown from average growth rates of 29% over the previous three years.
  • Some one in five people have installed the e-CNY (or digital yuan) wallet of the central bank's digital currency that is currently in testing; a formal launch is expected in 2022.

China Payments Research | Report Contents

Demographics and the economy
Payments environment
Cards market
Mobile payments
Profit pool
The networks
Key retail banks and issuers
Acquiring and processing
Online acquiring
Regulatory and other cards market information

China Country Report Data Tables
(All 2015-24F unless otherwise stated)

1: Demographic and economic indicators.
2: Ownership of key consumer devices.
3: Internet usage by population.
4: Access points: 2015-22F.
5: Account penetration.
6: Consumer payment trends: 2015-22F.
7: B2C e-commerce payment methods: 2015-22F.
8: Total card payment metrics.
9: Contactless card metrics.
10: Credit card numbers.
11: Total credit cards metrics.
12: Credit card profitability indicators.
13: Debit card numbers.
14: Debit card metrics.
15: Prepaid/e-money cards metrics.
16: Mobile proximity payment metrics.
17 : Mobile P2P payments: 2018-24F.
18: Profit pool: credit card numbers, billed volumes, outstandings, interest incomes, net interest revenues, merchant revenues, card fee revenues, other non-interest incomes, total revenues, net credit losses, operating expenses, total expenses, pre-tax profits, merchant service charges, rollover rates, APR, net credit losses to outstandings, operating costs to revenues, ROA (pre-tax profits to outstandings).

(All 2015-22F below unless otherwise stated)

19: Networks' credit card market shares.
20: Networks' credit card data numbers.
21: Networks' credit card billed volume.
22: Networks' number of credit card transactions.
23: Networks' average credit card transaction value.
24: Networks' debit card market shares.
25: Networks' debit card data numbers.
26: Networks' debit card billed volume.
27: Networks' number of debit card transactions.
28: Networks' average debit card transaction value.
29: Key credit card issuers market shares by credit card numbers: 2017-22F.
30: Key issuers market shares in credit card outstandings: 2017-22F.
31: Key debit card issuers market shares by debit card numbers: 2017-22F.
32: Merchant acquirer credit card market share: 2021E.
33: Credit card merchant service charges: 2015-24F.
34: Merchant acquirer debit card market share: 2021E.
35: Debit card merchant service charges: 2015-24F.
36: Credit card issuer/issuing processor relationships: -
37: Credit card acquirer/acquiring processor relationships: -
38: Credit card issuing processor market shares by card numbers: 2021E.
39: Credit card acquiring processor market shares by the number of POS transactions: 2021E.
40: Online merchant acquirer market share: 2021E.

China Country Report | Selected Extracts

Demographics and Economy
Chinese society has become more affluent in recent decades, with GDP experiencing constant growth and averaging 6% over a 30-year period to reach $16 trillion. However, in a Covid-dominated 2020, the growth rate fell to a mere 2.3%. This was the lowest seen in 30 years.

Payments Environment
China is the largest cards market in the world by volume, valued at $15.3 trillion in 2020. Virtually all domestic card transactions go through the UnionPay network, though the market has finally been opened up to foreign operators.

Cards market
Due to the potential of its vast population, China's payment cards market is viewed as one of the most attractive worldwide. The total number of debit, credit and prepaid cards in issue here reached nine billion at the end of 2020.

Mobile Payments
China is a unique market with regards to payments in that paying with one's phone is an everyday occurrence. Over 850 million people use mobile payments, on average three times per day, 85% of which are via QR codes.

Profit Pool
According to Verisk Financial Research estimates, credit card pre-tax profit reached $42 billion in 2020, an increase of 197% since 2015. Credit card business income is dominated by
interest income, instalment fees and merchant revenue.

Card Networks
The licensing of networks by the central bank to set up a domestic bank card clearing institution in the country is likely to spur some competition in the Chinese payment card market, which has, until now, been dominated by UnionPay.

Key Retail Banks and Issuers
Initially hit hard by the pandemic, the banking sector bounced back in 2020 and the early half of 2021 as demand for online services significantly increased and number and activity level of customers rose rapidly.

Acquiring and Processing
China UMS tends to dominate in the four biggest ('first-tier') cities, where it enjoys a monopoly position thanks to strong POS terminal coverage ... Most issuers operate credit card
processing in house. Some issuers have outsourced non-core credit card activities, such as debt collection, merchant development and maintenance, along with data processing.

Online Acquiring
China is the largest e-commerce market in the world, with rapid growth seen over the last several years. As of 2021, some of the largest e-commerce sites are based here ... E-commerce development here has been fuelled by increasing internet and smartphone penetration.

Regulatory and Markets Information
Supervision of the payment industry is tightening as the government intends to reshape the dominance of the nonbank payments market held by the likes of Ant's Alipay and Tencent Holdings' WeChat Pay.

China Payments Report | Entities Referenced

Agricultural Bank of China
American Express
Ant Financial
Ant Group
Apple Pay
Bank of Beijing
Bank of China
Bank of Communications
Bank of East Asia
Bank of Shanghai
BOC Services
China Banking Regulatory Commission
China CITIC Bank
China Construction Bank
China Everbright Bank
China Guangfa Bank
China Merchant's Bank
China Minsheng Bank
China Mobile Alliance
China National Petroleum Corporation
China Securities Regulatory Commission
China UMS
China UnionPay
China UnionPay Merchant Services
Deutsche Bank
Digital renminbi
Digital yuan
Diners Club
Express (Hangzhou) Technology Service Company
Fen Fu
Frog Pro
Guangdong Branch of Bank of China
Huawei Pay
Huaxia Bank
Industrial and Commercial
JPMorgan Chase
Lakala Payment Company
LianLian DigiTech
Mi Pay
Million Card Company
Nanyang Commercial Bank
NetsUnion Clearing Corporation
OnePlus Pay
Payment Clearing Association of China
People's Bank of China
Ping An Bank
Samsung Pay
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank
Sichuan Airlines
Standard Chartered
State Administration for Market Regulation
UMS Pay Register
UnionPay Merchant Services
WeChat Pay
Winter Olympic Games
World Trade Organization

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Reports include detailed market and competitor intelligence on payments cards, e-money, acquiring, retail banking, and consumer credit in the Asia Pacific region. Analysts use primary and secondary source data and conduct in-depth interviews with senior industry executives and finance experts.

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