The number of cards in circulation in Saudi Arabia grew from 17.2m in 2009 to 26.8m in 2013, according to a new Timetric report. By 2018, the company estimates it will reach 42.2m cards.

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The number of transactions increased from SR489.2bn to SR863.9bn in the same period, and is expected to grow from SR936.7bn in 2014 to SR1.2trn in 2018.

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What does all this mean? With more cards in circulation, e-ccomerce is also growing fast. In the same 2009-2013 period, online shopping grew from SR1.8bn to SR6bn.

Mobile payments are also soaring in Saudi Arabia, from SR453.4m in 2010 to SR813.1m, and are expected to reach SR7.2bn by 2018.

Banks such as Al Rajhi Bank, Samba Financial Group and The National Commercial Bank (NCB) are providing secure payment facilities so customers can pay via mobile phones or online.

Within the total number of cards in circulation, the number of prepaid and credit cards is also growing. Debit cards still account for 57.7 percent of all cards (15.5m) but this is expected to drop to 52.3 percent (22m) by 2018.

The number of pre-paid cards stands at 8.3m and is expected to grow to 16.4m by 2018.