Mexican Issuers and Card Schemas

Counting with 50 authorized banks and more than 130 offered card options, Mexico has a very solid card schema


Understanding Issuing Banks and Card Brands

First, before depicting the card schema in Mexico, let's make clear the difference between card issuers and card brands. A card issuer is a financial institution, often a bank or credit union, that provides credit, debit, and/or prepaid cards to consumers. Also, it is responsible for managing the relationship between the cardholders and their accounts. 

On the other hand, a card brand, which can also be called card network or association, is the responsible for managing and promoting cards. It is the card brand's duty to regulate who, where, and how cards are used.


The main issuing banks in Mexico

According to the Mexican official government website, the country has 50 authorized banks. Furthermore, the CNBV (Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores) reported 11,698 bank branches in December 2021. However, although these numbers seems promising, only 49% of the local population is bancarized, as indicated by INEGI - the Mexican National Statistics and Geography Institute. 

Now, looking at the top 5 largest and main issuing banks in Mexico, we have as it follows per total assets in dollars: BBVA México (USD 134.6 B), Banorte (USD 90.28 B), Banco Santander México (USD 81.86 B), Citibanamex (USD 76.14 B) and HSBC (USD 35.45 B). Note that, except for Banorte and Citibanamex, all the others are foreign banks with a subsidiary in Mexico. 

*The numbers were retrieved from S&P Global Market Intelligence - LatAm's 50 largest banks by assets, 2022


Mexicans' favorite card brands

Cards have been present in Mexicans' life as a payment method for more than 50 years. Although there are more than 130 card options in Mexico, Visa and Mastercard dominates the market. So, after this quick overview about the main issuing banks, let's have a look at these top players' numbers: 

Visa: the world's most popular card brand, with 353 million cards in circulation, also reigns in Mexico. The brand has almost 16,5 million active credit cards and 101 million debit cards. Visa also offers credit, debit and prepaid cards and has five membership tiers with different benefits within each category: Visa Classic, Visa Platinum, Visa Signature, Visa Gold e Visa Infinite.

Mastercard: another equally worldwide popular card brand, which is present in over 210 countries,  is Mastercard. Counting with almost 11.5 million credit cards and 48 million debit cards, it is the second favorite card brand in Mexico. This giant also offers different categories with specific benefits within: Standard, Gold, Platinum and Black.

Carnet: although Visa and Mastercard are responsible for more than 90% of all cards in Mexico, Carnet is a local brand created in 1968 that deserves to be mentioned. According to its official website, Carnet has 82 issuers and already issued more than 18 million cards. It is currently accepted by more than 600,000 venues and around 67,000 ATMs, besides counting with four memberships tiers: Esencial, Clásica, Oro and Platina.