The number of active bank cards has been falling the sixth month in a row in Kazakhstan as banks has lost over 2m cards since the beginning of the year. The number of cards per holder reached the lowest point since the beginning of 2014. Visa retained leadership among card payment system with a market share of 74.6%. Almaty’s share in the total number of bank cards exceeds 34%

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The total number of bank cards in circulation fell to a minimum of 15.1m units in Kazakhstan in June 2016, 12.3% down from a peak of 17.3m reached in December 2014. Along with the total number of cards, the number of cardholders also fell: there were only about 13.9m cardholders in the country, or slightly over 78% of the total population.

This resulted in a new low of the number of bank cards per holder: it fell by 8.9% to 1.09 cards per holder from a maximum of 1.2 in December 2015. A similar picture could be seen with the ration of the number of cards per capita: it was 0.98 in 2015 whereas the ratio stands at only 0.85 now.

The structure of payment systems forming the bank card market also changed. Visa lost about 2m cards since June 2015 (14.8% down), while other payment systems (UnionPay and American Express) gradually increased the number of their cards: they showed an almost 200% growth since June 2015, but their total number is still less than 1m. Growth in MasterCard’s market share is also linked to increase in the number of its cards by 187,000 (or 8.2%).

The obvious leader in terms of the number of bank cards in circulation is Almaty (even though the highest fall in the number was also recorded in this city). South Kazakhstan Region, whose capital – Shymkent – is the country’s third largest city, came second, outperforming Astana by 151,000 cards. South Kazakhstan Region is also one of four regions which posted growth in the number of cards, along with Almaty Region, West Kazakhstan Region and Akmola Region.

Despite shedding 3.7 percentage points in terms of market share, Almaty continues to account for over a third of the card market in Kazakhstan.