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What’s New in the Global Card Issuing Industry?


8 min read

In case your finger’s not on the pulse of credit card issuing trends, ours is. A UK financial giant, Barclays is purchasing the $3.8bn credit card portfolio from Synchrony Bank, thereby partnering with the US corporations like The Gap Inc. No less impactful news is that big tech companies are hoarding cash in the face of an impending threat posed by the Delta variant and its potential damage to the global economy, which cannot but affect the card-issuing industry. Astonishingly enough, Citi plans to launch a new buy now, pay later (BNPL) card without worrying too much about partnering with retailers thanks to a high number of available points-of-sale.

How about some informative statistics? Unfortunately or fortunately, the year 2021 hasn’t come to an end yet, so we’ve got only data related to the biggest card issuing services providers in the US in 2019 and 2020. According to Statista, Citibank, Chase, and Capital One managed to collect the highest number of active users between 2019 and 2020 — 95m, 83m, and 62m, respectively. Big figures, huh? No wonder why these are top card issuers.

But before we begin to discuss the best credit card issuing providers in 2021, let’s answer the most common questions to make things clear in this labyrinth of negotiations, acquisitions, and transactions.

What Does a Card Issuing Bank Mean?

Unlike an acquiring bank, which is a financial institution responsible for processing debit and credit card payments, an issuing bank operates as a card provider for customers based on a particular card network. Discover, Visa, and MasterCard represent these platforms to make sure that end-consumers can merely carry out transactions. So what does a credit card issuing bank mean in real-life conditions? Simply put, it’s involved not only in issuing cards for customers but also assumes the liability of paying cardholders’ debts. Provided that a cardholder’s account lacks a required sum to pay off the debt, most often, both an acquiring and issuing bank share the liability in compliance with the rules established by their card network.

Who Is the Issuing Authority for a Social Security Card?

Together with the green card issuing authority, the most widely discussed entity accountable for issuing social security cards is the Social Security Administration (SSA). In particular, these cards enable citizens or individuals admitted to permanently work within the US borders to continue their activity without any restrictions. Another social security card issuing authority may be the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare or the Department of Health and Human Services. Most often, the simple answer to the question “who is the issuing authority for a social security card?” is the SSA. Presuming you also want to learn what the permanent resident card issuing authority is, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be the correct answer.

What Is a Card Issuing Bank On a Visa Card?

If you’re interested in this question, the simplest way to identify an issuing bank for a Visa card is to examine the plastic rectangle itself. As a rule, credit card issuing bank codes (referred to as a bank identification number) are printed physically. If not, you can always look for an embedded code that directly points at the card provider. On your Visa card, there can be indicated almost any issuing bank that has undergone all verification procedures outlined on Visa’s official website. Be it Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, or Wells Fargo, they all need to operate according to official regulations. Ultimately, what is the credit card issuing bank? From a terminological standpoint, it’s a financial institution that provides branded credit or debit cards to customers. Yet before acquiring legal force, they need to be linked to a certain network.

What About MasterCard?

Most customers rarely distinguish between MasterCard or Visa. And not without reason. Primarily, the only actual difference between the two implies the geographical coverage of your financial operations as well as a specific payment network on which your credit or debit card is based. You simply cannot carry out transactions on a Visa network if you have a MasterCard-branded card. As for issuers themselves, these two share almost the same providers, but Visa partners with a higher number of those. In fact, just like Visa, MasterCard doesn’t offer any credit card issuing services.

A Thin Line Between a Credit Card Issuing Bank and Network

Due to COVID-19, we’ve already gotten accustomed not only to living or working remotely but also paying bills via smartphone applications without even touching cash. Although we don’t grab our credit cards either, any of our online or offline transactions are impossible without them. Yet do we know who issues these plastic rectangles? The answer is unlikely to surprise you because it’s credit card providers or issuers that endow simple cards with legal force.

Chase, Citi, Capital One, and Barclays serve as good examples of entities touching upon the card issuing process. As mentioned above, Visa and MasterCard are credit card networks that don’t issue any cards themselves. This function is usually delegated to such financial institutions as Chase or Capital One (described in the next section). Simultaneously, American Express and Discover function as both networks for financial operations and credit card issuers. While card networks promote transactions between merchants and issuers, the latter ones are responsible for credit card availability as well as their provision for customers.

Top Credit Card Issuers to Interact With in 2021

Below is the alphabetically ordered list of most successful and effective credit card companies in 2021. Given a broad spectrum of parameters by which credit card issuers can be classified, we’ve resolved to rank them in the following way, considering multiple aspects in complex:

American Express

Founded in 1850 and headquartered in New York City, American Express Company operates as a financial institution that mainly processes payments and issues credit cards. Recent research indicated that AmEx issued 53m credit cards for the US and 58m for the international market in 2020. During previous years, the company lost a small amount of its market share. With about 114m cards issued and used already in 2019, AmEx retains its leading position, competing chiefly with Citi, Chase, Bank of America, and Capital One for being called the most successful card issuing provider.

Bank of America

Bank of America is a professional in the area of wealth management, investment, and banking. Notably, approximately 66m customers, more than 4k retailers, and about 41m active users (32m of whom are mobile) entrust their financial as well as time resources to Bank of America. Furthermore, this financial organization invests sufficient sums of money to support small business households by means of unique services and online products. According to the official website, regardless of its title, the company serves clients both in the United States and about 35 countries outside its borders. By the way, in contrast to most competitors, virtual card issuing is no longer available at Bank of America.

Capital One

Capital One is one of the most proactive card issuing providers. Socially responsible, the organization regularly initiates research to ensure the top-notch quality of their future services. More specifically, it specializes in auto loans, savings accounts, and credit card issuing. With headquarters in McLean, Virginia, the institution mainly works with American customers. Founded in 1994, Capital One pursues the three-dimensional goal, encompassing the commercial and consumer banking perspectives as well as issuing credit cards. These three activities allow the company to remain competitive for decades. Thanks to a sustainable business model and continual customer satisfaction, Capital One’s total revenues snowballed from 2014 to 2020 and increased to $28.5bn.


A subsidiary of Citigroup, Citibank was founded in 1812 as New York’s City Bank, so it remains the company’s headquarters even today. However, this organization’s history was not always accompanied by transparent and socially responsible activities. As The New York Times reported in 2011, Citigroup was obliged to pay a $285m civil fraud penalty after being accused of betting against knowingly risky investments associated with mortgages, which were then sold to customers. Despite this and other black spots in Citibank’s history, its market share continues to grow, let alone the number of active accounts. All this information allows for referring to Citi as one of the most successful card issuing companies in the last couple of years.


Chase Bank is headquartered in Manhattan, New York City, and it’s the American national bank involved in commercial and consumer banking. As a credit card company, Chase is often ranked the most productive issuing provider. In 2020, JPMorgan Chase Bank earned more than $29bn in net income on revenue of almost $123bn. Interestingly, these figures were sufficiently higher than the same statistics in 2019, which indicated steady progress. What else marks a company’s success and development? Moreover, Chase Bank continues to invest in innovative technologies, human resources, and breakthrough products that fuel the financial industry.


Under the aegis of Discover Financial Services, Discover Bank generated a notably smaller revenue compared to its competitors in 2020. With a revenue of only $1.141m, the company demonstrated more than twice as worse performance as opposed to 2019 when these figures amounted to approximately $2.957m. Irrespective of similar statistics and reports, Discover Bank remains in the list of top credit card issuing providers to address in 2021.

By market share, the list of other most productive credit card companies in 2021 may include Barclays, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Synchrony Financial, Navy Federal Credit Union, etc. Some issuers, like, for instance, Airwallex, offer a virtual card issuing API, which can become a significant argument for someone to select this provider.

Aspects to Consider While Choosing a Credit Card Issuer

When you want a credit card, better look for a network provider and issuer that:

  • publish annual reports indicating successful growth rates;
  • offer adequate charges (for late payments, when you carry out transactions abroad, and when you exceed credit limits);
  • developed a user-friendly mobile application to simplify multiple operations;
  • have low minimum repayment;
  • provide customers with low or none introductory interest rates;
  • avert users’ attention to the Annual Percentage Rate (APR);
  • ensure cash back, reward systems, and loyalty programs.

Nevertheless, it’s up to you to decide what card issuer to choose based on preferences and expenses.

The Best Credit Card Issuing Provider For You

Consider these questions while searching for a credit card issuer:

  • Does this provider offer free access to credit scores?
  • Do you want a card that saves finances on interest, helps earn rewards, or provides the best credit opportunities?
  • How much does it cost to own a credit card and open a related account?
  • Do you need to pay any annual fees?

Even though these are not all possible questions to ponder over, they may serve as a starting point. But if you’re still confused and hesitating, let DashDevs figure it out for you. Contact us anytime and get quality assistance with all fintech-related questions you may have!

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