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Visa Consulting & Analytics

June 2023


3 - 4 Minutes

The New Acceptance Landscape

Since their inception, payment cards have allowed consumers and businesses to buy and sell with greater convenience. In many countries, this has fostered economic growth and increased the quality of life, by reducing the informal economy, strengthening transparency in the economy, reducing the cost of cash and boosting employment rates.

Globally, 48.5% of all consumer spending in 2020 took place on a payment card – an increase of 12% from 2019 – building on the period between 2015 to 2019 when consumer spending using payment cards grew at an average annual pace of 16%1. Payment card usage growth is expected to continue, and by 2025 85% of POS and eCommerce payments are estimated to be made via a card or digital and mobile wallet2.

The new acceptance landscape is enabling the development of retail payment infrastructure in emerging economies as well as developed countries, electronic payments are becoming more prevalent and available and consequently merchants have more ways to accept electronic payments than ever before.

Developing Cross-Market Acceptance

Most markets follow the acceptance development lifecycle, with consumers being introduced to the idea of card payments when they first use a card to access cash at an ATM.

From this starting point, acceptance gradually develops over time with the number of acceptance points steadily increasing across a market and multiple merchant segments: from travel and entertainment purchases to everyday spending. This expansion usually sparks a corresponding rise in the volume of electronic payments in those merchant segments. And as acceptance matures, card payments gradually become the nearly ubiquitous first-choice payment option.

There are several key infrastructure and behavior indicators that allow us to determine acceptance maturity and what can drive its growth.

A Focus on Increasing Acceptance

Increasing acceptance maturity, and therefore the use of payment cards, doesn’t just allow consumers and businesses to buy and sell with greater convenience, but also plays a crucial role in stimulating economic growth in countries around the world.

The availability of card based electronic payment systems leads to a virtuous economic cycle whereby increased consumption leads to increased production, more jobs and greater income and, ultimately, stronger economic growth.

In fact, a study conducted by Moody’s Analytics and sponsored by Visa, analysed the impact of electronic payments on GDP in 70 countries/regions in the five years between 2015 and 2019 and found that greater usage of electronic payment products added $245bn to real GDP in the 70 countries studied between 2015 and 20193.

Increased acceptance maturity drives this impact on GDP through removing friction, standardizing spending, encouraging innovation, providing security, increasing transparency and enabling business growth.

Stakeholders’ Roles in Increasing Acceptance Maturity

Several recent developments have helped drive the expansion of electronic payments acceptance, including smart POS devices, contactless POS terminals, mobile technology, Payfacs and real-time risk management and compliance solutions.

However, the biggest impact comes when governments step in and create public policies to encourage acceptance acceleration. When creating these policies, governments need to ensure that public policy goals support the private sector so that they work in tandem to ensure an even level of growth.


Saudi Arabia is a great example of how the right government public policies can rapidly accelerate acceptance maturity. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is a strategic framework to reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, and tourism. Saudi Arabia’s successful adoption of contactless payments serves as a model for other markets.

From just 4% of face-to-face transactions in 2017, contactless transactions accounted for 94% of all face-to-face transactions in the Kingdom in December 2020; this reached 95% in August 2021. It has been achieved through a concerted and collaborative effort between Saudi Payments and Visa under the supervision of the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) and has contributed significantly towards the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 national strategy goal to increase the share of cashless rate by 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s success clearly indicates how governments can take the lead to kickstart the evolution of their acceptance landscape. Government-led acceptance development funds (which subsidize early-stage acceptance points) and tax incentives go a long way to encouraging merchants that converting to the formal financial system is worthwhile.

Embracing the formal system provides merchants with access to an array of banking services, including access to credit; starting capital can be critical for startups to survive and thrive. These incentives can be coupled with softer approaches using digital and financial education to encourage those that have long remained outside of the formal system to change their perspective. After all, inclusive economies uplift everyone, everywhere.

Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, for instance, are both undergoing a digital transition. However, currently only 29% of the population in Azerbaijan and 59% of the population in Kazakhstan hold an account with a financial institution. This is consequently reflected in only 7.4% of the population in Azerbaijan and 25.5% of the population in Kazakhstan using a debit or credit card to make purchases. Meanwhile, 81% of the population in Azerbaijan and 86% of the population in Kazakhstan have access to the internet, while in Azerbaijan there are 821 POS terminals per 100,000 adults and in Kazakhstan there are 3,373 per 100,000. This demonstrates that while population buy-in to payment cards is currently limited, both countries are putting the right infrastructure in place to grow acceptance.

For more insights, please read our full opinion paper. If you’d like an in-depth conversation on the new acceptance landscape and the ways we can support your business, please contact your Visa Account Executive, or email Stay current with the latest payments insights from Visa Navigate CEMEA – subscribe today.

Stay current with the latest payments insights from Visa Navigate CEMEA - subscribe today.

All brand names, logos and/or trademarks are the property of their respective owners, are used for identification purposes only, and do not necessarily imply product endorsement or affiliation with Visa.

1 The Impact of Payment Cards on Economic Growth, Moody’s Analytics, 22 November 2021, 
2 GPR 2023: The Global Payments Report, FIS,
3 The Impact of Payment Cards on Economic Growth, Moody’s Analytics, 22 November 2021,

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