Research and Statistics

Credit card market share statistics

The largest card issuers held more than $800 billion in outstanding loans as of 2018


The credit card market keeps growing, and the top 10 card issuers held 81 percent of credit card balances outstanding in 2018, the Federal Reserve reports.

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The credit card industry is big business, and it is dominated by a handful of companies.

American consumers collectively are juggling $1.08 trillion in credit card debt as of mid-2019, according to the Federal Reserve consumer credit report.1 The top 10 card issuers held 81.5 percent of credit card balances outstanding in 2018.2

There were some 41 billion U.S. general purpose credit card transactions in 2018 (based on cards issued by the four major networks – Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover), accounting for about $3.8 trillion in dollar volume.2General purpose credit card payments value had grown from $3 trillion in 2016 to $3.32 trillion in 2017.3

And the total number of credit card transactions in the U.S. was 40.8 billion in 2017, up from 37.3 billion in 2016, according to the 2013 Federal Reserve Payments Study.3

Sizing up the networks

Visa is the largest of the four major U.S credit card networks. At the end of 2018, Visa’s U.S. credit payments volume was $1.95 trillion, up from $1.77 trillion in December 2017.4There were 336 million Visa credit cards in circulation in the United States and 771 million Visa credit cards in circulation outside of the United States at the end of September 2018.4For comparison, there were 336 million Visa credit cards in circulation in the United States and 737 million cards in the rest of the world in September 2017.5

Mastercard’s U.S. credit purchase volume was $811 billion at the end of 2018, up from $743 billion the previous year.6There were 231 million Mastercard credit cards in the United States and 644 million cards in the rest of the world at December 2018.7In comparison, there were 211 million Mastercard credit cards in the U.S. and 601 million cards in the rest of the world the year before.6

American Express also saw growth from year to year, as U.S. cardholders spent $776 billion in 2018, up from $708 billion the year before.7 At the end of 2018, there were 53.7 million American Express credit cards in circulation in the U.S. and 60.3 million in the rest of the world. That compares to 50 million cards in the U.S. and 62.8 million in the rest of the world, in 2017.7

Finally, the Discover network had a credit purchase volume of $143 billion in 2018, up from $133 billion in 2017. 8

BankOutstanding loansPercent of overall sample
Citigroup $169 billion20.2%
JPMorgan$156 billion18.7%
Capital One$107 billion12.8 %
Bank of America$98 billion11.8%
American Express$81 billion9.7%
Discover$72 billion8.6%
Synchrony$65 billion7.8%
Wells Fargo$37 billion4.4%
Barclays Delaware Holdings$26 billion3.2%
U.S. Bancorp$23 billion2.8%
Source: Issuers’ 2018 annual reports, investor reports

Expanding the customer base

The Great Recession led some credit card issuers to tighten their lending standards, and it’s not clear whether they remain more risk-averse. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports that the number of new credit cards opened in December 2018 for those with credit scores less than 580 (or the “deep subprime” category) was down 10 percent from December 2017. This figure was also down 2.89 percent for those with subprime credit scores in the 580 to 619 range. 10

However, TransUnion reports 11 subprime credit card originations grew to 2.97 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. And data from Experian shows the average VantageScore of credit card consumers dropped from 685 in 2008 to 680 in 2018. During this period, the average number of cards held by the average consumer dropped from 3.40 to 3.04. Average credit card balances are also down from $7,101 in 2008 to $6506 in 2018. 12

TransUnion has also found that the number of credit card accounts is growing. In the first quarter of 2019, there were 432.8 million card accounts, up from 416.5 million in the first quarter of 2018.11 However, the average number of retail credit card accounts dropped off from 3.03 in 2008, to 2.59 in 2018, according to Experian. 12

The future of cards

One major threat that continues to impact cards in circulation is security. Rippleshot reports that 7.6 million existing credit card users were fraud victims in 2017, up from 6.6 million in 2014.13 Credit cards in the United States have traditionally used a magnetic stripe, but a nationwide migration to EMV payment technology is now underway. EMV– which stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa – is a global standard in which cards have computer chips that dynamically authenticate transactions instead of relying on easy-to-copy magnetic stripes.

Chip cards have been popular around the world for years and are used in more than 80 countries, reported in 2016. 14 At the end of 2018, there were approximately 8.2 billion smart chip cards deployed worldwide, per EMVCo, up from about 6 billion at the end of 2016. In the U.S., about 53 percent of card transactions at the end of 2018 were EMV, according to EMVCo, up from about 41 percent at the end of 2017. 15 The U.S. adoption of chip cards was largely precipitated by a network-imposed EMV fraud liability shift deadline on Oct. 1, 2015. As of March 2016, approximately 70 percent of all cardholders had been issued at least one EMV-chipped card.16

Another technology likely to play a bigger role in the future is contactless cards. Visa anticipates that there will be more than 100 million Visa contactless cards issued in the U.S. by year-end 2019, with 78 of the network’s top 100 merchants (by transactions) in the U.S. offering this facility currently at their checkouts. Outside the U.S, more than 40 percent of card present Visa transactions are contactless.17

See related:  Credit card statistics, Credit card delinquency statistics, Credit card debt statistics


  1. Federal Reserve Consumer Credit Report (G.19)
  2. Fed report on card bank profitability, 2019
  3. Federal Reserve Payments Study – 2018 Annual Supplement
  4. Visa operational performance data, first quarter 2019
  5. Visa operational performance data, third quarter 2018
  6. Mastercard supplemental operational performance data, quarter ended December 31, 2018
  7. American Express 2018 annual report
  8. Discover 2018 annual report
  9. Chase 2018 annual reportCiti 2018 annual report, Bank of America 2018 annual report, American Express, 2018 annual report, Discover 2018 annual report , Synchrony Financial 2018 annual reportWells Fargo 2018 annual report, US Bancorp 2018 annual report , Barclays PLC investor relations, Capital One investor relations
  10. Borrower risk profiles, CFPB
  11. TransUnion’s Q1 2019 Industry Insights Report
  12. Experian’s annual state of credit report for 2019
  13. State of card fraud: 2018, Rippleshot
  15. EMVCo
  16. survey research, March 2016
  17. Visa report, “Contactless payments: Global highlights”
The top four issuers in the fourth quarter of 2014 provided more than 57 percent of all the cards issued by 5,231 banks. The top 10 issuers issued nearly 90 percent.13

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