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Discover becomes most widely accepted card scheme worldwide

Discover is now the most widely accepted card scheme worldwide ahead of Visa and Mastercard, largely due to rapid growth in the number of outlets accepting Discover cards in China.

China drives growth in global card acceptance

The number of card-accepting merchant outlets worldwide increased by 15% in 2015 to 54 million according to Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2021. This rapid expansion was largely a result of the continuation of the impressive growth in the largest market, China, which saw a rise of 39% in its number of outlets in 2015.

Scheme acceptance levels heavily influenced by developments in China

Discover overtook Visa and Mastercard in 2015 to become the most widely accepted scheme globally, as a result of the strong growth in China, where it enjoys universal acceptance thanks to its network-to-network agreement with UnionPay.

Discover was accepted at 42 million merchant outlets worldwide at the end of 2015, up 18% compared with 2014. Visa and Mastercard, which have lower acceptance in China, were accepted at 40 million outlets, an increase of 10% on the previous year.

The study shows that UnionPay and JCB also saw strong growth in their acceptance networks in 2015, increasing their number of outlets by 27% and 26% respectively. This was similarly mainly due to expansion of card acceptance in China, where JCB, like Discover, has an agreement in place with UnionPay for its cards to be accepted at all outlets.

Number of merchant outlets worldwide, by scheme, 2014-2015 (million)

Number of merchant outlets worldwide, by scheme, 2014-2015 (million)

Visa and Mastercard accepted at the vast majority of outlets outside China and Iran

If China is excluded, the picture is quite different. Visa and Mastercard are accepted at 96% and 95% of non-Chinese outlets respectively (75% each worldwide) – this compares to only 69% for Discover (79% worldwide). Visa and Mastercard are accepted at the vast majority of card-accepting outlets in most countries – China and Iran, following international sanctions, are the main exceptions.

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