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Payment Cards Continue Global Growth

posted by Katie Porter

While Americans continue to lead the world in credit card spending, other forms of plastic payment such as debit cards continue to have an edge in other nations. Overall, Ronald Mann reports that global spending on credit and debit cards has quadrupled in the last ten years to $5.2 billion. In 2006, card spending represented 11 percent of global GDP. In a new piece for Foreign Policy, Mann provides a quick look at the available data on trends in plastic payment around the world, updating the findings on global card spending that he presents in his book, Charging Ahead. As additional encouragement to check it out, let me report that the Foreign Policy piece is loaded with really fun graphics; my favorite is the little figure carrying a huge credit card on his back in Atlas-like fashion.

Prof. Mann's piece reminded me of an interesting story on NPR's Marketplace a few months ago about the role of credit cards in China. Scott Tong reported that many younger Chinese consumers are eager to get a credit card; like their American counterparts on college campuses they like the T-shirts, toasters, or other freebies that are offered in return for signing up for a card. But the growth in actual card use remains slower than banks are used to seeing in American customers. While credit cards are increasingly a global phenomenon, there remain important differences in their use that reflect historical trends in payment systems, the cultural norms of consumers, and macroeconomic conditions.

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