Global card transactions up 12% to 135 billion in 2011

Planetarily speaking, there's a whole lot of swiping going.

The Nilson Report's annual Global Credit Card Brands report shows that planet-wide, transactions at merchants on the leading payment cards rose to 135.3 billion in 2011. If each of the Earth's 7 billion people had a credit card, they would have swiped it an average of 19 times. The number of transactions worldwide represents a 12.1 percent increase from 2010 -- or 14.6 billion more transactions.

The report from Nilson, an industry research publisher, measures the volume of transactions, counting debit, credit card and prepaid card transactions. It includes users of cards from American Express, Diners Club, JCB, MasterCard, UnionPay and Visa.

David Robertson, publisher of The Nilson Report, says it has to do with the changing of our preferred payment methods.

"These results reflect a continuation of the worldwide movement from cash and checks to payment cards, both debit and credit," says Robertson in a news release.

Other global plastic payment factoids in the report include:

  • By the end of 2011, the total number of credit, debit, and prepaid cards in circulation hit 6.54 billion.
  • Of total payment cards in circulation carrying the global brands of American Express, Diners Club, JCB, MasterCard, UnionPay and Visa, most were debit cards -- at 68.8 percent.
  • In 2011, Visa and MasterCard purchases made up $70 out of every $100 -- down $3 since 2010. 

The report also found Americans aren't dominating the world of credit card use quite as heavily as they had in the past. United States cardholders' share of worldwide credit card purchase volume slipped a percentage point, from 38 percent in 2010 to 37 percent in 2011.

See related: Credit cards around the world, Credit card statistics, industry facts, debt statistics

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Updated: 03-22-2019