Lebanon’s Cards and Payments Industry: Emerging Opportunities, Trends, Size, Drivers, Strategies, Products and Competitive Landscape

Date: 2015-09

“Lebanese payments cards (including debit, credit and charge cards) registered positive growth during the review period, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.41%, increasing from 1.6 million cards in circulation in 2009 to 1.8 million by the end of 2013. In terms of transaction value, payment cards valued LBP15.5 trillion (US$10.3 billion) in 2013, after registering a review-period (2009โ€“2013) CAGR of 12.07%. The introduction of improved cards, rising consumer awareness for electronic payments, adoption of advanced technologies such as PayWave and PayPass feature, EMV technology and contactless cards all contributed towards the growth in payment cards.
In 2013, the average transaction value (ATV) in Lebanon was US$177.6, which was the fifth highest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Kuwait recorded the highest ATV, with US$319.6, followed by the UAE (US$263.1), Oman (US$207.1) and Bahrain (US$185.3). In terms of card penetration, Lebanon had the ninth highest level of 0.4 cards per inhabitant, followed by Iran (2.4), the UAE (2), South Africa (1.3), Kuwait (1.3), Israel (1.1), Oman (1.0), Bahrain (0.8) and Saudi Arabia (0.7).
Lebanon ranked seventh among the other MENA countries in the frequency of use of payment cards, with 31.9 transactions per card. Israel recorded the highest frequency with 131.2, followed by Saudi Arabia (95.3), Kuwait (47.4), Iran (46.5), the UAE (43.1) and Nigeria (38.2).

The prepaid cards market is growing rapidly, and is expected to surpass debit, credit and charge cards in terms of number of cards in circulation by 2018. In terms of the number of cards in circulation, the prepaid cards market in Lebanon increased with 107,702 cards in circulation in 2013, which is anticipated to increase to 2.3 million cards in 2018. To promote such cards, Byblos Bank and Blom Bank are offering cards at different prices ranging from LBP12,060โ€“LBP376,875 (US$8โ€“US$250), targeting the young population (from the age of 12 years) and regular internet surfers who prefer to make purchases online. These cards include offers such as the redemption of reward points that are attached with it.

Prepaid cards are also popular for the remittance facility. IRemit, a global remittance company, issues the I-remit Visa Prepaid Card which ensures faster and safer remittance facilities from Lebanon to the beneficiary in the Philippines. This card also offers facilities such as online payment for utility bills and online shopping.
Smart cards with contactless technology features are an emerging trend across the globe, with the same case in Lebanon. Contactless technology was introduced to the country in association with Visa. Bank Audi and Visa launched PayWave contactless payment technology in June 1, 2014, and the bank also issues cards with PayPass contactless features in association with MasterCard.

Similarly, contactless technology is being used for mobile payments. In April 15, 2014, Bank Audi launched the Tap2pay NFC Mobile Payment service, which allows mobile phone users to use their mobile phone as a credit card. This was launched in partnership with MasterCard and the mobile operators Alfa and Touch.”

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