2019 North American Card Industry Stats, Trends

By Al Vrancart – ICMA Founder Emeritus and Industry Advisor

The North American card industry, which is made up of cards manufactured and personalized and fulfilled in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, experienced 3.2% unit volume growth in 2019. The North American region continues to rank second globally, coming in behind the Asia Pacific region, with a unit volume of 9.54 billion cards manufactured and personalized and fulfilled.

North America’s revenue from cards manufactured increased 7.7% from the prior year to $3.2 billion. The region remains the third largest revenue generator in the global card industry, coming in behind the Asia Pacific and European regions.

The number of traditional (magnetic/barcode/other) cards manufactured in North America decreased 2% to 6.78 billion as a result of the region adopting higher-valued smart chip cards. The number of chip cards manufactured in this region increased 18.3% over the prior year to 2.76 billion. Smart card revenue increased by 11.9% to $2.4 billion as a result of increasing volumes of financial, retail and gas and government/health cards.

The personalization and fulfillment sector added $2.49 billion in card services to the card industry in 2019, bringing the total up 6.7% over the prior year.

The number of retail and gas cards increased 2.5% to 1.01 billion and the amount of revenue these cards generated increased 9% to $292 million.

In 2019, the number of financial cards increased 2.9% to 1.41 billion cards as contactless EMV cards ramped up in the United States. The financial card market segment’s revenue increased 13.8% to $865 million as a result of increased volume and enhanced chip card mix.

The number of SIM cards decreased 2.4% from the prior year to 605 million. This market segment’s revenue amounted to $590 million, which is 6.3% less than it was in 2018 as a result of chip prices decreasing. Embedded SIMs and a slowing demand for phone upgrades are threats to this market segment.

There were 575 million access control cards and 410 million transportation cards manufactured in the North American region in 2019. These card market segments saw modest growth, 6.5% and 2.5% respectively, over the prior year.

Transportation card revenue grew 11.2% over the prior year and totaled $199 million. Transit systems are moving to open loop payments, which accept financial cards and mobile payments.

Access control card revenue totaled $245 million, which is a 5.6% increase over what it was in 2018.

The overall use of chip cards is growing in these market segments and the overall use of traditional cards is declining.

The number of government and health cards increased 5.7% to 650 million units and their revenue increased 13.1% to $588 million over the prior year. Growth in this market segment is fueled partly by local, state and federal government demands for more sophisticated and secure cards.

The North American region continues to see a decline in the manufacturing of prepaid phone cards, but modest growth of its open loop gift card market segment. The mature gift card market segment has seen renewed growth as consumer confidence improves. It is important to note that the gift card market segment remains the largest North American card market segment with 2.85 billion cards produced in 2019 as consumers continue to prefer physical cards for gifting.

The number of loyalty promotional cards and ID membership cards is not growing as alternative technologies and smartphone applications displace their use in North America.

The number of loyalty promo cards decreased 2.8% to 525 million in 2019 and they generated $42 million in revenue, which was flat over the prior year.

The number of ID membership cards decreased 5% to 189 million and generated the same amount of revenue as in 2018 at $19 million.

Overall, the North American card industry manufactured $3.2 billion worth of cards in 2019 and generated $2.49 billion worth of personalization and fulfillment services for a total of $5.61 billion, which is a 7.2% increase over 2018.

North America has the third largest dollar card market in the world with 21% of the share. Europe has 23.7% of the share and Asia Pacific has 42.2% of the share.

The North American card industry will experience selective limited or flat unit and revenue growth in 2020 and will be impacted by markets reshaping with innovation and technology. There are some vertical market segments that will transition better than others. Staying abreast of these trends and adapting to change in the card industry will position your business for success. Card usage will continue and the card manufacturing industry will continue to do well for many years to come.

ICMA members can download the complete Global Card Market and Personalization & Fulfillment Reports in the members-only section of ICMA.com for free. Non-members can purchase the reports by emailing info@icma.com.

The information in this article was compiled from my April/May 2020 North American Card Industry Statistics and Market Trends webcast, which is available to ICMA members by logging in to the members-only section of ICMA.com.

About the Author: Al Vrancart is founder emeritus and industry advisor of ICMA. With more than 40 years of business experience, Vrancart previously served as president/CEO of NBS and Qualteq. His guidance and counsel has helped ICMA and other industry associations implement growth initiatives effectively and successfully. He is a frequent presenter/speaker at card manufacturing industry events. He is particularly focused on global and regional industry market statistics, metrics and trends.

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