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United Arab Emirates Country Report

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  • Published Date: September 2019 – Update to be published in July 2021

A comprehensive overview of the cards, payments and consumer banking market in the United Arab Emirates.

What you will learn from this UAE cards market report:

  • How average profitability per card in the UAE has risen to world-beating levels
  • What role is played by Premium cards
  • How the authorities are advancing the digital economy of the Emirates
  • Who is gaining UAE market share in the ongoing banking sector consolidation
  • How alternative forms of digital payment are progressing


  • Cash remains the most commonly used payment method in the UAE, although total card purchase volume increased by 90 per cent from 2013 to 2018 when it reached $66 billion. Given the opportunity, the authorities have prioritised the establishment of a digital economy: in 2018, the central bank's 'National Payment Systems Strategy' was announced.
  • Islamic banking accounts for approximately 20 per cent of total banking assets in the UAE, with assets growing at a faster pace than the assets of conventional banking.
  • E-commerce continues to grow in strength and importance on the back of a relatively young, tech-savvy population, widespread internet and smartphone penetration and relatively elevated income per capita.
  • On a per-card basis, the UAE is one of the most profitable cards markets in the world (if not the most profitable): the average pretax profit per credit card amounted to $209 in 2018.
  • Major contributory factors towards elevated profitability are the preponderance of Premium credit cards, relatively high MSCs, and high volumes of cross-border usage for credit cards.
  • Mobile payments are gaining ground in the United Arab Emirates. Besides Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, there are also a number of mobile payment offerings available from domestic players.
  • Recent years have seen significant consolidation in the UAE banking sector, making the newly founded First Abu Dhabi Bank the second-ranked issuer by both number of credit cards in issue as well as by credit card outstandings.
  • Alipay has partnered with the two leading merchant acquirers in the market, Network International and Mashreq Bank, to grow acceptance of Alipay in the UAE. (However, this drive is at the formative stage). Close rival WeChat Pay is also accepted at a relatively small handful of merchants.

UAE 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
  • B2C e-commerce payment methods

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
  • Appendix IV: Mobile payments
  • Mobile proximity payment metrics
  • Mobile P2P payments

Appendix V: Profit pool

  • Profit pool

Appendix VI: The 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
  • 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

UAE Country Report | Selected Extracts

Demographics and Economy:
The UAE government is continuously focusing on diversifying its economy. Non-hydrocarbon sectors such as aviation, tourism, trade, real estate and financial services have seen significant developments in the past few years.

Payments Environment:
The growth in card purchase volume has been enabled by a significant increase in acceptance infrastructure: the number of POS terminals grew by 151% from 2013 to 2018 (from 91,791 to 230,038).

Cards market:
The UAE is a cash-dominated society; about 41% of transactions were paid for using cash during 2018. However, the proportion of cash payments is declining gradually. Banks and the government have been promoting electronic payments.

Mobile Payments:
While mobile payments are available in the UAE, 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 for the past several years.

Profit Pool:
Total revenue increased by 48% between 2013 and 2018 to reach $2.6 billion, boosted by an increase in card numbers and billed volumes.

Card Networks:
Although there are five card networks operating in the country, the market is dominated by Visa and Mastercard, which together represented 99% market share both in terms of the number of credit cards in issue, as well as billed volume in 2018. Visa and Mastercard are the only two debit cards schemes operating in the UAE.

Key Retail Banks and Issuers:
The consolidation in the banking sector has changed the competitive landscape in the cards market. The merger between NBAD and FGB meant the top ten credit card issuers merged, leaving the newly created First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) as the second-ranked issuer by number of credit cards and by credit card outstandings.

Acquiring and Processing:
Network International (NI), Mashreq Bank and First Abu Dhabi Bank dominate the UAE acquiring market, with a combined market share of 92% of total payment card acquired billed volume.

Online Acquiring:
E-commerce sales in the UAE are estimated to reach $7.6 billion in 2019. E-commerce has grown strongly over the last few years, and total e-commerce turnover is forecast to reach almost $10 billion in 2020.

Regulatory and Markets Information:
In order to reduce the country's dependence on oil and other hydrocarbon products as a source of revenue, the UAE decided to implement Value Added Tax (VAT), which came into effect on 1 January 2018.

UAE Payments Trends | Entities Referenced

Abraaj Capital
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank
Air Arabia
Al Etihad Credit Bureau
Al Hilal Bank
Al Rajhi Bank of Saudi Arabia
American Express
Apple Pay
Bank of Baroda
Beam Wallet
Central Bank of the UAE
Department of Economic Development
Diebold Nixdorf
Diners Club
Dubai CommerCity
Dubai Free Zones Council
Dubai Government Human Resources Department
Dubai Internet City
Dubai Islamic Bank
Dubai Metro
Dubai Police
Emerging Market Payments
Emirates Airlines
Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company
Emirates Islamic Bank
Emirates National Oil Company
Emirates NBD
Emirates NBD Pay
Emirates Petroleum Products Company
Eros Digital Home
First Abu Dhabi Bank
First Gulf Bank
General Atlantic
Google Pay
Gulf Cooperation Council
Ingenico Payments
Joyalukkas Jewellery
Jumeirah Emirates Towers
Kuwait Finance House
London Stock Exchange (LSE)
Majid Al Futtaim
Manchester City FC
Manchester United FC
Mashreq Bank
Mashreq Neo
Mashreq Payport
National Bank of Abu Dhabi
National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah
National Payment Systems Strategy
Network International
Noor Bank
Planet Payment
Quisk Middle East
Road and Transport Authority
Royal Cloud
Salaam Rewards
Samsung Pay
Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority
Sharaf DG
Sharjah Islamic Bank
Sri Lanka
Srilankan airlines
Standard Chartered Bank
Supreme Committee for Consumer Protection
UAE Switch
Union National Bank
United Arab Bank offer
US Federal Reserve
Wage Protection System
Warburg Pincus
WeChat Pay


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

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