Credit card usage in South Korea was the highest in the world in 2012, according to data released on Sunday.
With annual credit card usage at 147 transactions per capita in 2012, the country ranked first among 18 advanced economies, according to the Korea Financial Telecommunications and Clearings Institute.
Canada and the U.S. came in second and third, respectively, with 89.8 and 83.5 uses per person in the year, the data compiled by the agency showed.
The data compared 18 member countries of the Bank for International Settlements, or BIS. The total number of credit and debit card transactions in the country reached 9.8 billion in 2012, up from 1.8 billion in 2003. Credit card usage, in particular, jumped from 1.88 billion in 2003 to 7.35 billion cases in 2012. The annual growth in credit card usage on average in the same time period stood at 16 percent, the study said.
In credit card transaction volume, Korea ranked third in 2012 with $8,625 per person, following Australia and Canada with $11,000 and $10,000, respectively.
But the country’s debit card usage, which hit $1,475 per capita in 2012, was still below the average $4,423 per capita among 18 countries, according to the KFTC.
Market insiders, however, predicted the nation’s credit card transaction volume would see a sharp drop this year due largely to a massive data breach that involved up to 20 million customers nationwide.
The country’s leading credit card firms, including KB Kookmin Card, NH NongHyup and Lotte Card, have lost more than 1 million customers in the wake of the massive leaks of customers’ personal information since earlier this year.
Credit card spending increased 4.7 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, according to the Credit Finance Association. The 2013 tally marked the slowest growth since 2005, when the association began to compile related data. In 2012, credit card spending in Korea soared by 13.5 percent over 2011.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)