Bahrain’s card payments channel recorded strong growth at a CAGR of 11.08% between 2008 and 2012. This was mainly driven by growth in the prepaid and debit card categories. The total number of cards in circulation increased from 654,118 in 2008 to 996,028 in 2012. Over the next 5 years, the card payments channel is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 5.20%, from 1.1 million cards in 2013 to 1.3 million cards in 2017.
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Steady economic growth, a rise in the banked population, and improvements in payment infrastructure are resulting in the growing popularity of card payments in Bahrain.
The prepaid cards category is growing rapidly in Bahrain. Although prepaid cards held a low share of 8.8% in 2012, they recorded a CAGR of 28.29% in terms of number of cards in circulation between 2008 and 2012. In this period, the number of prepaid cards in circulation grew from 32,321 to 87,558 and is projected to record a CAGR of 17.27% over the next 5 years. The increasing preference for Islamic banking provides high growth potential for prepaid cards as it is compliant with Islamic law with no riba (interest).
The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) enforced the adoption of enhanced security standards and compliance with Europay MasterCard Visa (EMV) requirements.
Banks in Bahrain have completed migration of their card products from the traditional magnetic stripe to EMV chip technology in accordance with the regulation. As a result, the value of card fraud declined at a CAGR of -2.43%, from BHD384,384 (US$1.0 million) in 2008 to BHD 348,418 (US$932,632) in 2012.
Domestic card issuers dominate the card payment channel, despite intense competition from international companies. These banks are able to dominate due to their large customer bases and innovative product offerings. Domestic banks offer sharia-compliant cards products and attractive reward programs. Such aggressive marketing and product innovation helps domestic card issuers to maintain their dominant position in the market.
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