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China Country Report

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  • Published Date: November 2020 – update to be published December 2021

A detailed analysis of the cards, payments and consumer banking landscape in China, with a full analysis of market trends both historic and forecast.
China is the world's largest cards market, with a unique payments ecosystem characterised by the widespread use of mobile payments and innovations to service the vast numbers of people enjoying the fruits of economic uplift.
Having seen that spell of high growth dramatically broken by the pandemic, consumer spending began to recover in the second half of 2020.
Another unique feature is the increasing control being exerted by the authorities: the prospect of major payments IPOs has met with official disapproval and new regulation could disrupt the mobile payments industry as Beijing considers the dominance of QR payments and the big players behind them.
Although the China credit cards market is showing signs of a slowdown, opportunities abound for international players as the market finally opens up.

What you can learn from this China cards market report:

How QR-based super apps have transformed payments.
Which regulatory move may fuel a UnionPay recovery in China.
Why this cards market has become so attractive to international issuers and networks.
Which Chinese credit card profitability drivers to watch.
How acquiring, led by the central bank, is becoming more integrated.


  • China has become one of the most dynamic and advanced payments markets in the world, spurred by an explosion in mobile payments over the last decade.
  • Growing disposable income is fuelling higher-end e-commerce, further cementing China's position as the largest e-commerce market globally.
  • Cash use is declining rapidly, with mobile accounting for a significant portion of everyday payments.
  • Over 90 percent of people living in the largest cities utilise mobile payments daily, and approximately half of rural consumers also rely on them regularly.
  • UnionPay is the largest worldwide payments network, accounting for 45 percent of cards in circulation in 2019.
  • American Express and Mastercard are the first US card networks to gain direct access to the market.
  • Credit card profits, driven by strong uptake of instalment plans, have grown strongly to reach some $35bn in 2019.
  • Regulation of foreign financial firms was loosened to allow up to 51 percent equity stakes. For banks, the 20 percent cap on foreign ownership has been scrapped.
  • The 'at-risk' banking sector, previously focused on deleveraging bad loans, reverts to looser lending to support pandemic-affected sectors.
  • The central bank's Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP) is expected soon, with a large-scale pilot underway across 28 cities.

China Payments Research | Report Contents

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

Appendices: Card Payments Data

Appendix I: Demographics and the economy

  • Demographic and economic indicators
  • Ownership of key consumer devices
  • Internet usage by population

Appendix II: Payments environment

  • Access points
  • Account penetration
  • Consumer payment trends
  • B2C e-commerce payment methods

Appendix III: Cards market data

  • Total cards payment metrics
  • Contactless cards metrics
  • China credit card data
  • Total credit cards metrics
  • Credit cards profitability indicators
  • Debit cards numbers
  • Debit cards metrics
  • Prepaid/e-money cards metrics

Appendix IV: Mobile payments data

  • Mobile P2P payments

Appendix V: Profit pool

  • Profit pool in China

Appendix VI: Card networks

  • Networks' credit card market shares
  • Networks' credit card numbers
  • Networks' credit card billed volume
  • Networks' number of credit card transactions
  • Networks' average credit card transaction value
  • Credit card interchange fees by network
  • Networks' debit card market shares
  • Networks' debit card numbers
  • Networks' debit card billed volume
  • Networks' number of debit card transactions
  • Networks' average debit card transaction value

Appendix VII: Key retail banks and issuers

  • Key credit card issuers market shares by credit card numbers
  • Key issuers market shares in credit card outstandings
  • Key debit card issuers market shares by debit card numbers

Appendix VIII: Acquirers and processing

  • Merchant acquirer credit card market share
  • Credit card merchant service charges
  • Merchant acquirer debit card market share
  • Debit card merchant service charges
  • Credit card issuer/issuing processor relationships
  • Credit card acquirer/acquiring processor relationships
  • Credit card issuing processor market shares by card numbers
  • Credit card acquiring processor market shares by the number of POS transactions

Appendix IX: Online acquiring data

  • Online merchant acquirer market share

China Country Report | Selected Extracts

Demographics and Economy
Chinese society has become more affluent in recent years, with GDP experiencing constant growth and averaging 6% over a thirty-year period. In 2019, GDP reached $14.2 trillion and a growth rate of 6.1%.

Payments Environment
China is home to the largest cards market in the world by volume, reaching $12 trillion in value in 2019. All domestic card transactions go through the UnionPay network, though the market has finally been opened up to foreign operators.

Cards Market
China's payment cards market is viewed as one of the most attractive worldwide, due to the potential of its vast population. The total number of debit and credit cards in issue in China reached 8.6 billion at the end of 2019, representing a remarkable penetration rate of 744 cards per 100 adults.

Mobile Payments
China is a unique market with regards to payments in that paying with one's phone is an everyday gesture. It is estimated that approximately 92% of people living in the largest cities utilise mobile payments daily.

Profit Pool
According to Verisk Financial Research estimates, credit card pre-tax profit was $35 billion in 2019, an increase of over 1000% since 2013. Credit card business income is dominated by interest income, instalment fees and merchant revenue.

Card Networks
While the Chinese market has now been formally opened up, American Express is the only foreign network to have received approval from the central bank to process domestic payments, which it will begin doing towards the end of 2020. UnionPay is the only authorised interbank transfer network in the country.

Key Retail Banks and Issuers
The Chinese retail banking sector is the largest in the world with approximately $40 trillion in assets. The industry is dominated by a Big Four: the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the Bank of China (BOC), the China Construction Bank (CCB) and the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC, or AgBank).

Acquiring and Processing
Card acquiring was traditionally dominated by the banks and China UMS but third-party licensees have grown in prominence over recent years. As it stands, there are hundreds of acquiring institutions, including 90 banks and 238 third-party payment institutions.

Online Acquiring
China is the largest e-commerce market in the world, with rapid growth seen over the last several years. This has been fuelled by increasing internet and smartphone penetration: there were around 879.2 million internet users and an 88% penetration rate of smartphones at the end of 2019.

Regulatory and Markets Information
In January 2020 the first foreign network to finally be granted access to the market by the issuance of a licence was American Express, followed in short order by Mastercard. However, foreign networks and others entering the market will now have to compete with large and well-established players and alternative payment methods.

China Payments Report | Entities Referenced

Agricultural Bank of China
All Pay
American Express
Ant Financial
Ant Group
Apple Pay,
Bangkok Bank
Bank of Beijing
Bank of China
Bank of Communications
Bank of East Asia
Bank of Shanghai
BDO Bank
Beijing Haike Rongtong Payment Service
China Banking Regulatory Commission
China CITIC Bank
China Construction Bank
China Everbright Bank
China Guangfa Bank
China Merchants 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 Currency Electronic Payment
Digital Currency Research Institute
Diners Club
Google Pay
Halyk Bank
Hong Kong Stock Exchange
Huawei Pay
Huaxia Bank
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
Joint Stock Commercial Bank of Foreign Trade of Vietnam
Kasikornbank (China)
Lakala Payment Company
Mi Pay
Million Card Company
Mitsubishi UFJ Nicos
Mizuho Bank
Mobile QuickPass
Nanyang Commercial Bank
National Development and Reform Commission
NetsUnion Clearing Corporation
Oppo Pay
Oriental Commercial Bank of Bangladesh
Pacific Cards
Palace Museum
PAX Technology
People's Bank of China
Philippine National Bank
Privredna Banka Zagreb
Quan Min Fu
Rui Pay
Samsung Pay
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank
Shanghai Stock Exchange
Sichuan Airlines
Standard Chartered
State Administration for Market Regulation
Sumitomo Mitsui
Tour Pass
Tribe Payments
United Overseas Bank
Vivo Pay
Vostochny Express Bank
WeChat Pay
World Trade Organization


Verisk financial 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.

See more Asia-Pacific Country Reports, explore cards & payments research reports for  markets worldwide or view our latest reports.

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