U.S., Canada, and U.K. Prepaid Markets: Similarities and Differences


New research compares prepaid debit card markets in U.S., Canada, and the U.K. New research from Mercator Advisory Group compares the market size, taxonomy, and regulatory structure of three desired prepaid debit card markets.

Author: C. Sue Brown
Published on: September 3, 2019


The report titled U.S., Canada, and U.K. Prepaid Markets: Similarities and Differences provides a comparison of these markets including market size, taxonomy, regulations, and key players.

Mercator Advisory Group has been covering the U.S. prepaid debit card market since 2004 and created the taxonomy that is used industrywide to categorize and segment the different prepaid debit card types in the market. In 2014, Mercator was asked to provide the same type of analysis for the Canadian market. Every year new data is collected and analyzed using the baseline data and trending to benchmark and forecast market size for five additional years, which helps program managers and processors to anticipate where growth will happen as well as where to expect declines.

Additionally, the report looks at the regulatory environments for prepaid debit cards, which are continually changing especially in Canada and the United Kingdom as regulators learn the nuances of the card market and where risk lies. While some controls are necessary, prepaid programs face risks at both the state/providence and federal level provoking continual compliance concerns.

“The prepaid debit card market is unique in that there are many product offerings under prepaid debit cards that are not widely known under that designation. People are more likely to know them as gift, payroll, incentive, travel, or general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards. Each country has its own set of products that function primarily the same but with major differences in the regulatory requirements. It’s valuable to players in the prepaid market to see how each country is evolving in this space,” C. Sue Brown, Director of Mercator Advisory Group’s Prepaid Advisory Service, and author of the report, commented.

This research report has 21 pages and 15 exhibits.

Companies and other organizations mentioned in the report include: Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal, Barclays, Berkeley Payments, Blackhawk, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), City Services Benefits Card (CSBC), Clydesdale Bank, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Contis Group, Ltd, Co-operative Bank, Desjardins, Discover, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Financial Crimes Enforcement (FinCEN), Greendot, HSBC, InComm, Industrial and Commerce Bank of China, KEB Hana Bank of Canada, Laurentian Bank, Lloyds Banking Group (Bank of Scotland, Halifax, and Lloyds), Mastercard, National Bank, National Gift Corporation (NGC), Nationwide, Netspend, North West, Ontario Disability Support Program, PaySafe Group, Peoples Trust Company, Prepaid Financial Services (PFS), PrePay Solutions, PSI-Pay, Ltd, Rapid Payroll, RBC Royal Bank, RBS Group (NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Ulster Bank), Santander, Scotiabank, TD Canada Trust, Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS), TSB, UK Gift Card and Voucher Association (UKGCVA), US Bank, Vancity Community Investment Bank, Virgin Money, Visa, Wirecard, and Yorkshire Bank. 



Highlights of the report include:

  • Canada is the smallest of the three markets at $4.3 billion CAD, followed by the United Kingdom at $39 billion; the United States is largest at $665 billion.
  • Each of the three offers opportunities. Canada has significant room for growth, the United Kingdom is quickly embracing e-money licenses which allow fintechs to operate more like banks, and the United States prepaid market although mature, continues to reinvent itself through new product offerings and additional robust features when compared to the other counties.
  • The three taxonomies in the report show the growth difference in product offerings. The U.S. has the largest array of offerings with 11 categories, and 23 market segments. Canada has 3 categories and 17 segments, and the U.K. has 3 categories and 17 segments.
  • Regulations are expected to have an impact on the prepaid segment in Canada and the U.K. Controls are decreasing the usage of anonymous prepaid cards, and strong customer authentication (full registration of the card) will be required to have full access to all features and functionality.



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