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Kuwait Cards & Payments Market Report

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  • Published Date: July 2021


A comprehensive overview of the cards, payments, consumer banking and merchant acquirer market in Kuwait.
This payments market is going through some major changes, including improvements in the card-acceptance infrastructure as consumers move towards cashless payment modes at pace. During the pandemic, Kuwaitis quickly adapted to using cards and other hygienic means of digital payments to pay for goods.
Card spend on credit cards decreased in 2020 due to the pandemic, declining by 25 percent. The payment cards market in Kuwait however is expected to recover with green shoots already appearing in terms of debit card spend in the first half of 2021 and a rebound of credit card spend at the POS expected in succeeding quarters.
The increasing popularity of e-commerce and associated move to digital, rising smartphone penetration, government backing and initiatives taken by issuers to encourage card usage, are sure to fuel the rebound.


  • Four local banks dominate the retail banking and payments market.
  • The use of cash as a means of payment for consumer transactions has decreased in recent years, with electronic payments becoming popular.
  • Kuwait is home to a young, tech-savvy demographic comfortable with modern payment methods.
  • With an estimated value in 2020 of $2.5 billion, there is also a growing e-commerce market that is forecast to grow by more than a fifth in 2021, making it a key channel for merchants.
  • Enjoying an average penetration rate of about 120 cards per 100 adults, the debit card is the most popular form of payment card here.
  • Kuwait has one of the highest usage rates of debit cards in the Middle East and North Africa. The average billed volume per debit card in 2020 was $18,911.
  • There are a growing number of Premium cards in the market. This segment has proven attractive to issuers thanks to its high spend and low-risk profile. The commercial focus has contributed to a changing usage pattern: from credit instrument to payment tool.
  • Visa is the dominant network across debit and credit.
  • UnionPay signed a strategic cooperation agreement with KNET to boost its card acceptance and issuance in Kuwait.
  • Acquiring is carried out by the issuing banks. The four main local banks control over 90 percent of both the credit card issuing and acquiring markets.
  • The central bank has been active in regulating the payments space.

Kuwait 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

Kuwait 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: 2015-21E.
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: 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 below 2015-22F unless otherwise stated)

17: Networks' credit card market shares.
18: Networks' credit card data numbers.
19: Networks' credit card billed volume.
20: Networks' number of credit card transactions.
21: Networks' average credit card transaction value.
22: Credit card interchange fees by network.
23: Networks' debit card market shares.
24: Networks' debit card data numbers.
25: Networks' debit card billed volume.
26: Networks' number of debit card transactions.
27: Networks' average debit card transaction value.
28: Debit card interchange fees by network.
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: 2015-234.
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.

Kuwait Country Report | Selected Extracts

Demographics and Economy
Since the early 2000s, the population is entirely urban-based, with more than eight in ten Kuwaitis living in the eponymous capital city. The official language of Kuwait is Arabic but English is also used across the country.

Payments Environment
This payments market is going through some major changes, including improvements in the card-acceptance infrastructure as consumers move towards cashless payment modes at pace.

Cards Market
Kuwait has until now been a predominantly cash-orientated society. However, the payment cards market is developing significantly, with the number of payment cards in circulation (including prepaid, debit and credit card) reaching over 4.8 million at the end of 2020.

Mobile Payments
The main banks, for example NBK and KFH, offer their own mobile banking apps for everyday banking as well as various mobile wallets. There has been huge demand for alternative payment methods and the banks have been responding.

Profit Pool
Kuwait is a highly profitable credit cards market. Credit card customers here have one of the highest levels of average spend per card and one of the highest overseas spending rates across Gulf Cooperation Council territory. Kuwait also has a high concentration of affluent consumers within the customer base.

Card Networks
In Kuwait, Visa and Mastercard account for the vast majority of cards in issue. Of both, Visa dominates the credit cards market both in terms of cards in circulation and billed volume. There have been significant changes in the dynamics of the debit cards market in Kuwait since 2008, with Visa emerging as the dominant player.

Key Retail Banks and Issuers
Kuwait has one of the oldest and well-developed banking sectors in the Gulf region. The top five retail banks constituted about 70% of total banking assets in 2020.

Acquiring and Processing
There are four major acquirers in Kuwait: NBK, KFH, Commercial Bank and Gulf Bank. This quartet collectively accounted for an estimated market share of over 90% in terms of credit card acquired billed volume in 2020. Three major issuers and acquirers in the market – NBK, KFH and Gulf Bank – outsource their card issuing and transaction processing operations to First Data International.

Online Acquiring
Online shopping is increasingly popular in Kuwait: e-commerce sales volume reached an estimated $2.5 billion in 2020, mainly thanks to high internet and smartphone penetration rates.

Regulatory and Markets Information:
Consumer debt, especially in the form of personal loans, over the years has been a contentious issue in the country. The subject has been the subject of much debate in parliament and the Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK), has actively worked to put measures in place to ease this problem.

Kuwait Payments Report | Entities Referenced

Ahli United Bank
Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait
Al Rajhi Bank
Al-Salam Mall
American Express
Apple Pay
BNP Paribas
Boubyan Bank
British Airways
Burgan Bank
Commercial Bank of Kuwait
Credit Information Network Company
Diners Club
Dubai Islamic Bank
FinTech Regulatory Sandbox
First Data International
Fitbit Pay
Garmin Pay
Google Pay
Gulf Bank
Gulf Cooperation Council
Kuwait Airways
Kuwait Banking Association
Kuwait Credit Bank
Kuwait Finance House
Kuwait International Bank
Kuwait Ministry of Commerce and Industry
Marina Mall
Mashreq Bank
National Bank of Kuwait
National First Abu Dhabi Bank
Nordstrom Rack
Open Banking Framework for Kuwait
Qatar National Bank
Samsung Pay
Shared Electronic Banking Services Company
Starwood Hotels
Tap Payments
The Avenues
Warba Bank
Western Union
Zain Telecom


Reports deliver invaluable market and competitor intelligence on payments cards, e-money, acquiring/processing, retail banking, and consumer credit throughout the Middle East. Analysts and researchers use both primary and secondary source data and conduct in-depth interviews with senior industry executives and Middle East experts.

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