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United Arab Emirates Cards & Payments Market Report

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  • Published Date: September 2021


This United Arab Emirates cards and payments market research report provides an expert analysis of the cards payments and consumer banking market in the UAE with detailed key performance indicators and expert commentary backed by comprehensive data.
Key trends, qualitative analysis, market insights and growth projections are clearly summarised to help make intelligent decisions and recognise profitable opportunities in the UAE payments market.
For instance, the current surge in UAE government-sponsored digitalisation points toward a massive opportunity for growth in electronic payments. E-commerce platforms have soared in the United Arab Emirates over the past two years, driving digital and credit and debit card growth.
Throughout the Middle East, the cards & payments landscape is rapidly evolving, with payment service providers populating and changing the space through M&A centred around payments processing and acquiring.
Credit card issuers in the UAE have traditionally focused on the premium segment, leaving a vast cohort currently uncatered for in the low-to-mid income bracket, especially foreign workers. As e-commerce growth continues, market opportunities for innovative card programmes that can utilise the ubiquitous smartphone and virtual card solutions for neglected segments will grow.

What to learn from this UAE cards payments report:

How the growing popularity of cards is reshaping the market.
The impact of the state's cashless agenda.
What e-commerce's leap means for payments.
Why prepaid cards have risen sharply.


  • The position of cash as the most popular payment option is slowly being eroded by government strategies, rapid growth in e-commerce platforms and the broader expansion of electronic payment systems.
  • Total payment card purchase volume reached $53bn in 2020, an increase of five per cent compared to the year before.
  • This is one of the world's most profitable credit card markets on a per-card basis: the average pre-tax profit per credit card amounted to $125 in 2020. The preponderance of Premium credit cards, relatively high MSCs and volumes of cross-border usage all contribute.
  • Despite this, industry-wide pre-tax profitability witnessed a substantial decline during 2020. Pandemic-related restrictions meant purchase volume flatlined while credit card outstandings decreased.
  • Banks are stepping up their digital transformation efforts, sharply cutting staff headcounts. At the point of sale, terminals increased by over half during the five years to 2020.
  • The UAE's acquiring market is concentrated, with almost three-quarters of the total acquired billed volume in the hands of two players: Network international and First Abu Dhabi Bank
  • Islamic banking is growing: 60 per cent of residents here used at least one such product in 2020, up from 47 per cent five years earlier. Ten Islamic banks in the Emirates had a combined asset size valued at approximately $163 billion at the end of 2020, representing about a fifth of overall banking assets.

UAE 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

United Arab Emirates 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: 2015-22E.
5: Account penetration.
6: Consumer payment trends: 2015-22E.
7: B2C e-commerce payment methods: 2015-22E.
8: Total card payment metrics.
9: Contactless card metrics.
10: Credit card numbers.
11: Total credit card metrics.
12: Credit card profitability indicators.
13: Debit card numbers.
14: Debit card metrics.
15: Prepaid/e-money card metrics.
16: Mobile proximity payment metrics.
17: 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)

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

UAE Country Report | Selected Extracts

Demographics and Economy
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an Arabian Gulf country made up of seven individual territories (emirates), with Dubai and Abu Dhabi as the richest and most populous. The population increased from 10.7 million in 2019 to 11.1 million at the end of 2020.

Payments Environment
Cash remains among the most popular payment options in the Emirates; however, its dominant position is slowly being eroded by electronic forms of payment.

Cards Market
Total payment card (credit, debit and prepaid) billed volume (purchase volume and cash withdrawals) reached $154 billion in 2020, a 4.1% year-on-year decrease. Total payment card
transactions came to 744 million, up by 0.8%.

Mobile Payments
While mobile payments are available in the United Arab Emirates, billed volume as a proportion of total electronic payments is negligible. However, stakeholders in the payments space have been working to bring mobile payment solutions to the market.

Profit Pool
Boosted by an increase in card numbers and billed volumes, total revenue grew by a quarter between 2015 and 2020 to reach $2.4 billion.

Card Networks
Although four card networks are operating in the country, the market is dominated by Visa and Mastercard, which represent 99% market share in terms of the number of credit cards in issue and billed volume as of 2020.

Key Retail Banks and Issuers
There are 21 UAE banks active here and 37 licensed branches of foreign banks (covering both conventional and Islamic banking). The total assets of the Emirati banking system came to approximately $704 billion at the end of 2020.

Acquiring and Processing
Network International (NI), First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) and  Mashreq Bank  dominate the UAE acquiring market, with a combined market share of 92%. Most of the issuers in the Emirates carry out card processing in-house, while international banks undertake theirs through their regional processing centres.

Online Acquiring
Lockdown measures in the early half of 2020 accelerated a surge in e-commerce sales volume, with a reported 49% of consumers shopping online more and the majority using cards or digital wallets.

Regulatory and Markets Information
Consumers in the United Arab Emirates are increasingly opting for digital payments, a trend now accelerated by the pandemic. Accordingly, in 2020, the central bank created a comprehensive regulatory policy framework to support the development of digital payment services.

UAE Payments Report | Entities Referenced

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank
Abu Dhabi Investment Council
Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange
Air Arabia
Al Hilal Bank
Al Rajhi Bank
Amazon Payments Services
American Express
Apple Pay
Bank Audi
Cashew Payments
Central Bank of UAE
Diners Club
Dubai Islamic Bank
Dubai Police
eDirham G3
Emerging Market Payments
Emirates Islamic Bank
Emirates NBD
Emirates Payment Services
FC Barcelona
First Abu Dhabi Bank
First Gulf Bank
Fitbit Pay
Garmin Pay
Google Pay
Gulf Cooperation Council
Infibeam Avenues
Kuwait Finance House
London Stock Exchange
Majid Al Futtaim Finance LLC
Manchester City
Manchester United
Mashreq Neo
National Bank of Abu Dhabi
National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah
Network International
Noor Bank
Samsung Pay
Sharjah Islamic Bank
Smart UAE
Standard Chartered
Targeted Economic Support Scheme
UAE Ministry of Finance
UAE Switch
Union National Bank
Wage Protection System
WeChat Pay


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

See more Middle East Country Reports or explore the full range of cards payments reports for markets worldwide or view our latest updates.

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