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Saudi Arabia Country Report

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  • Published Date: March 2019 – update to be published in June 2021

A comprehensive overview of the cards, payments and consumer banking market in Saudi Arabia.

This Verisk Financial Research Country Report delivers commentary on Saudi Arabia's retail banking and payments landscape supported by historic and forecast data. The report gives detailed insight into the market's key players, including cards networks, issuers, acquirers, banks, and PSPs, plus Saudi Arabia's payments infrastructure, digital and mobile payments developments, demographic and consumer trends, regulatory drivers, credit card profitability, and more.


  • Saudi Arabia's authorities have made cash reduction a key policy objective. The country is also looking to reduce dependence on oil and foreign workers; a range of new taxes, including VAT, have been introduced.
  • Banking has gradually migrated from primarily conventional to primarily Islamic over the last decade: some 90 per cent of the country's credit cards in issue are now sharia-compliant.
  • Retail banking is offered by a dozen local commercial banks, though this may fall to ten through mergers, one of which (SABB and Alawwal Bank) has been agreed, subject to approval.
  • Mada, the local switch and debit network, has been central to innovation, introducing contactless payments, launching a mobile wallet and enabling debit cards for online payments. The Saudi Arabian payments infrastructure was significantly improved with Mada's overhaul in 2015.
  • Contactless payments have grown rapidly in the kingdom, accounting for one in five card payments in 2018. This is a higher proportion than in many European countries, where contactless has been available for much longer.
  • Cash-on-delivery is the dominant e-commerce payment method. Until 2018, debit cards could not be used online and, with Saudi Arabia's credit card base being small, COD was often the only option for online buyers.
  • Debit cards dominate the payment cards market, accounting for 79 per cent of total purchase volume in 2018. Credit cards are largely aimed at the affluent market, and a high proportion of spending takes place outside the country.
  • Banks have traditionally subsidised their acquiring operations through their issuing and corporate banking businesses with MSCs often priced below interchange levels.

Saudi Arabia Payments Research | Report Contents

Key Topics
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

Appendices: Card Payments Data

Appendix I: Demographics and 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

Appendix III: Cards market

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

Appendix IV: Mobile payments

  • Mobile proximity payment metrics

Appendix V: Profit pool

  • Profit pool

Appendix VI: The 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
  • Debit card interchange fees by network

Appendix VII: 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: Acquiring 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

  • Online merchant acquirer market share

Saudi Arabia Country Report | Selected Extracts

Demographics and Economy:
Nearly 13 million expatriates live and work in Saudi Arabia, making it the third-largest country in terms of expatriate population after the United States and Russia.

Payments Environment:
Traditionally Saudi Arabia has been a cash-reliant market: this dominance has extended into the rapidly developing e-commerce sector as cash-on-delivery is the preferred payment method. However, the authorities are determined to change this situation.

Cards market:
Saudi Arabia differs from most Gulf countries in that debit cards are more widespread and more used for payments than credit cards. Debit cards were used for around 80% of card purchases in 2018.

Mobile Payments:
In July 2018 Mada launched the first significant mobile payments service in the country, Mada Pay. Mada Pay facilitates NFC mobile payments on Android phones. It supports Mada, Visa and Mastercard cards issued by supporting banks.

Profit Pool:
Saudi Arabia's credit cards industry is highly profitable and is one of the few global markets with a profit per card greater than $100. There has been a move towards Premium cards as issuers have concentrated more on affluent customers who are high spending and less risky.

Card Networks:
Saudi Arabia has a competitive credit cards market, with three of the major international brands – Visa, Mastercard and American Express – having a presence. American Express has a market share of 3.5% of cards in issue but has the highest average billed volume per credit card in Saudi Arabia.

Key Retail Banks and Issuers:
28 banks were licensed to provide banking services in Saudi Arabia as of the end of 2018. The country's retail banking market is dominated by the 12 local banks: the five largest banks collectively held 74% of total bank branches.

Acquiring and Processing:
Merchant acquiring operations are heavily subsidised by the banks' credit card issuing business and corporate banking business. Banks typically offer competitive rates, which in some instances are below cost, on merchant acquiring.

Online Acquiring:
E-commerce in Saudi Arabia is in € its early stages of development but is rapidly expanding. Online sales represent approximately 0.8% of total retail sales in the country, but this is also expected to increase.

Regulatory and Markets Information:
A Value-Added Tax of 5% on all goods and services came into force at the beginning of 2018 to boost non-oil income and address yawning fiscal deficits caused by years of low oil prices. The measure ends decades of tax-free living for residents and most businesses.


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

See more Middle East Country Reports or explore the full range of worldwide cards & payments reports available for 72 markets worldwide.

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