Global Plastic Card Industry Grows to $27B

ICMA 2020 State of Industry: Transportation, Government and Health Cards Drive Growth

PRINCETON JUNCTION, N.J., Jan. 23, 2020—The global plastic card industry reports a 2.8% increase to a record-high $27 billion, which is equal to the production of 37.1 billion cards, according to the International Card Manufacturers Association’s (ICMA) 2020 State of the Card Industry.

ICMA’s analysis is based on its newly released 2019 Global Card Market and Personalization and Fulfillment Statistics Reports.

“New innovations and technologies will continue to impact the financial card segment in 2020 and beyond,” said Al Vrancart, ICMA founder emeritus and industry advisor. “Regardless of the hype about mobile wallets and digital payment tools, cards won’t be going away anytime soon. The demand for metal cards will surge and contactless, ‘tap-and-go’ cards will grow while security remains top-of-mind.”

From a global perspective, the Asia Pacific region was the top producer in 2019 with 16.3 billion cards produced, as a result of embracing mobile and card innovation and technology. North America ranked second with 9.5 billion cards manufactured, which was a 3.2% increase compared to 2018. The growth was a result of accelerated contactless conversion.

The plastic card industry is comprised of traditional cards (with or without magnetic stripes or barcodes) and chip cards (contact/contactless or dual interface).

Among market segments, gift cards showed the strongest volume growth in 2019 with a 7.1% increase. The number of transportation cards grew 6.5% and the number of government and health cards grew 5.5%. Despite growing use of digital gift cards, the demand for physical gift cards was still strong. Consumers prefer a physical gift card with unique packaging that creates an upscale presentation.

The transportation card market sector is expected to gain significant traction in 2020. Ticketing for mass transit systems includes financial open loop, bank-issued contactless cards and closed loop transit authority/operator cards. Contactless technology can provide the security and the transaction speed necessary for transit fare card and turnstile applications. As the segment continues to grow and adopt smart contactless card ticketing, it will spur adoption of a “tap-and-go” solution, especially as consumers gain comfort.

The government and health care card market segment, which includes government benefits, health care cards, national identification cards, driver’s licenses and passport cards, has been positively impacted by the trend toward chip card credentials, the shift to e-documents and innovative technologies such as biometrics, government-imposed ID standards and security and fraud issues.

ICMA’s comprehensive reports are a source of valuable card industry data generated from primary and secondary research, as well as statistical modeling created by Vrancart. The reports examine five regional markets: North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East/Africa and Asia Pacific. Within these regions, the reports analyzed card units manufactured in 12 vertical market segments: Prepaid Phone, SIM Mobile Phone, Financial, Gift, Government/Health, Retail and Gas, Transportation, Loyalty and Promotional, ID and Membership, Access Control, Blanks and Other.

Highlights from the card market reports include:

  • The Asia Pacific region was No. 1 in units produced with 16.3 billion cards, which amounted to a 2.4% increase in unit growth and $8.6 billion in revenue—a 1.3% increase over the prior year.
  • North America was No. 2 in units produced with 9.5 billion cards manufactured, which is a 3.2% increase compared to the prior year and No. 3 in revenue at $3.2 billion—a 7.7% increase.
  • Europe ranked No. 2 in revenue at $4.4 billion and No. 3 in units produced at 6 billion cards, which is a decrease of 1.3% in units and an increase of 3.5% in revenue.
  • Financial cards make up the largest unit market with 5.6 billion cards and the third-largest revenue-generating market at $3.9 billion.
  • Government-issued cards and health cards produced the most revenue at $4.8 billion and this market segment came in fifth in units at 4 billion cards.
  • The SIM card market had the second largest dollar volume with $4.6 billion, representing 25% of the global card market, ranking second in units with 5.5 billion cards capturing 15% of global units.
  • Gift cards showed the strongest volume growth over the prior year at 7.1%, followed by transportation cards at 6.5% and government and health cards at 5.5%.
  • Regarding strongest market segment revenue growth, transportation cards led the way at 15.8%, followed by government and health cards at 12.3%, gift cards at 11.2% and access control cards at 5.1%.
  • The global personalization and fulfillment market processed 30.8 billion cards for $8.39 billion in revenue, a 2.7% increase over the prior year.

The global card manufacturing market is valued at $18.6 billion and the personalization and fulfillment services market is valued at $8.4 billion, making the overall global card industry a $27 billion market.

The full reports are available to ICMA members on the ICMA website via ICMA.com. Non-members may purchase the set of two reports for $2,500 USD. ICMA membership information can be found at ICMA.com or by calling 609-799-4900.

Invaluable Networking and Industry Connection

Since 1990, the annual ICMA Card Manufacturing & Personalization EXPO has served as the world’s only manufacturing-focused global card conference and exhibition. A global meeting of leading card industry professionals, the EXPO is replete with information sharing and networking opportunities.
Geared to prepare attendees for the changing future of the card industry, presentations feature valuable insight on trends and new technologies, as well as market forecasts. EXPOs regularly feature more than 50 exhibitors, made up of global industry leaders who manufacture and supply materials and services to the card manufacturing and personalization industry.

In addition to its annual EXPO, ICMA offers its members two other important events through the year. CardTREX North America and CardTREX Europe are geographic-specific conferences that focus on regional trends, challenges, opportunities and emerging technologies for card manufacturers, personalizers and suppliers. Each one-and-a-half days long, the conferences are geared to technical and production staff, as well as executives and business owners in the transaction card industry. The conferences also feature tours of local members’ plants.

Throughout the year, ICMA hosts live webcasts featuring expert tips from card manufacturers, personalizers and issuers about the card industry. Webcasts are archived and members may access them on ICMA’s website. Sample topics include, “European Card Market Statistics,” “Developments in the Gift Card Marketplace” and “Effectively Designing and Introducing New Trends in Card Design.”

Cutting-Edge Training, Education
ICMA maintains several industry-leading training and education programs about card manufacturing. These include the Advanced Card Education (ACE) designation, which provides information on key areas of the industry, as well as online tutorials and webinars on specific topics from card industry experts and leading industry suppliers.

The ACE training program is the global standard of recognition for advanced knowledge of the card manufacturing industry. Offered in manufacturing, personalization and advanced technologies, the ACE designations are designed to offer companies an edge in an intensely competitive field. As the demand for experts grows, continual training and expertise are crucial for individuals—and companies—to stay ahead of the crowd.

ACE training and exams are given at ICMA events, such as the upcoming 2020 EXPO and CardTREX conferences. ICMA member companies may also host private training sessions and ACE exams at their locations, proctored by ICMA personnel.

ICMA continues to invest in education for its members, keeping them knowledgeable and current on new innovation in the marketplace.

  • CITE

The Card Industry Training & Education (CITE) program provides a basic overview of the industry, it’s history and manufacturing processes. It provides a basic education for individuals new to the card industry or who otherwise want a better understanding of the industry. The self-led online course covers general card manufacturing, personalization and applications.

Key sections of the CITE curriculum include card history, card markets, industry scope, card product categories, card manufacturing, materials, components, card-based financial transactions, industry trade associations, basic concepts of card personalization, data recording technologies, machine-readable recording technologies and the card personalization process. There are self-tests at the end of each section.

  • Card Manufacturing Magazine

Published six times a year globally, Card Manufacturing is the flagship publication of ICMA. The magazine outlines industry news and trends, member news, product releases, standards updates and member/ACE spotlights.

  • Technical Standards Reports

ICMA officially participates in two major standards organizations, the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). An ICMA representative attends ANSI and ISO meetings, offering card manufacturing and personalization perspectives to the standard-making bodies and providing guidance to members about forthcoming changes to standards.

ICMA maintains representation on both of these committees through its official standards representative, David Tushie of Magellan Consulting. Tushie is at the forefront of current and emerging standards for all types of cards and related devices.

ICMA maintains a library of reports published by Tushie detailing outcomes of ISO and ANSI meetings from 2011 to present that impact the card manufacturing process.

  • Global Market and Personalization Statistics Reports

ICMA publishes two annual reports that analyze the industry and assess the industry’s present environment and future. Designed to assist ICMA member companies with strategic planning, the reports are segmented by global views, industry verticals and geographic regions and they cover trends in manufacturing, personalization, and fulfillment statistics. The reports are free to members.


About ICMA

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020, ICMA is a nonprofit association of card manufacturers, personalizers, suppliers and related industry participants. With 205 members globally, ICMA acts as a resource for industry issues, including the production, technology, application, security and environmental issues of cards. More information is available at icma.com.