Rural expansion is drivingrapid growth in card acceptance in developing markets, while regulation and new technologyare boosting acceptance in more developed markets

Underserved regions are showing the fastest growth

According to RBR’s latest research, Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2021, the number of card-accepting merchant outlets worldwide rose by over 7 million in 2015 to 54 million. Growth was especially strongin Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa (MEA) and central and eastern Europe (CEE) where payment card acceptance levels remain low.

In Asia-Pacific, the number of merchant outlets where customers can use payment cards increased by 29% in 2015. Unsurprisingly, China was responsible for much of this growth as a staggering 4.7 million new outlets began accepting payment cards during the year. Chinese merchants are racing to keep up with demand from the country’s vast population, especially in underserved rural areas.

Number of merchant outlets accepting cards by region (million)

Number of merchant outlets accepting cards by region (million)

Source: Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2021 (RBR)

Regulation isboosting card acceptance even in more mature markets

RBR has found that regulatory factors are having a positive impact on acceptance levels in several countries. For example, in Malaysia a reform on interchange fees came into force during 2015, encouraging merchants to begin accepting cards. Meanwhile in Kazakhstan, legislation has been introduced which requires all merchants to accept card payments or face a financial penalty.

Regulation isalso bringing about further expansion in mature markets. For example, the business case for merchants in EU countries to accept card payments is stronger followingthe European Commission’s caps on interchange fees, which came into force in December 2015, and their knock-on effect on merchant service charges.

Contactless and mPOS are extending acceptance to new sectors

In addition, technological advances arestimulating greatercard acceptanceeven in developed markets. Contactless is appealing to merchants that handle low-value payments and appreciate the reduced transaction times that the technology enables. Meanwhile, mPOS devicesare improving acceptance among mobile merchants, such as taxis and tradespeople, for which fixed terminals are often not practical or cost-effective.

RBR’s Chris Herbert remarked: “Whether card acceptance is coming to an area for the first time, moving to lower value payments, or penetrating smaller merchants, theacquiring sector has a remarkable ability to find new opportunities for expansion.”

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