Tamara E. Holmes
The credit card industry is a big business, and it is dominated by a handful of companies.
American consumers collectively were juggling $974 billion in credit card debt as of the end of 2020, according to the Federal Reserve consumer credit report.
Top networks by market share
Visa is the largest of the four major U.S. credit card networks. For the 12 months ending Dec. 30, 2020, Visa’s U.S. credit payments volume was $1.97 trillion, down from $2.15 trillion the year before.4
There were 343 million Visa credit cards in circulation in the U.S. and 798 million Visa credit cards in circulation outside of the U.S. at the end of September 2020.4 For comparison, there were 336 million Visa credit cards in circulation in the U.S. and 737 million cards in the rest of the world in September 2017.
Mastercard’s U.S. credit purchase volume was $837 billion at the end of December 2020, down from $909 billion the previous year.
There were 249 million Mastercard credit cards in the U.S. and 725 million cards in the rest of the world at the end of March 2021. By comparison, there were 243 million Mastercard credit cards in the U.S. and 705 million cards in the rest of the world the year before.
American Express saw its U.S. cardholders spend $828 billion in 2019, up from $778 billion the year before. For 2020, there was a slowdown, and American Express cards generated $693 billion in purchase volume in the U.S.