Only about 7% of the adults in low-income economies are likely to have credit cards, whereas in developing counties almost 50% of adults may have them, new research suggests.

The findings are a part of a Gallup-World Bank study of financial inclusion, which measures how adults in 148 economies save, borrow make payments and manage risk. The research involved more than 150,000 interviews last year with individuals ages 15 and older.

According to the research, credit card penetration is relatively high in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly in Brazil and Uruguay, and in developing economies in Europe and Central Asia, such as Turkey. However, it is at an all time low in countries in the Saharan Africa and other parts of that continent where no more than 2-3% own credit cards.

Reseearchers involved in the study did not return PaymentsSource requests for comment and analysis.

Extensive credit card ownership in high-income countries may help explain the lower-than-expected rate of new formal (personal) loans in regions such as North America and Europe, the survey findings suggest, indicating individuals there may view credit cards as a short-term alternative to those loan types.

Worldwide, adults in Israel are the most likely to report owning a credit card, at 80%, but the credit card market is virtually nonexistent in Egypt, Pakistan, and Senegal, where 2% or fewer adults reported having one

The research does not reveal anything unexpected, India-based banking analyst Mrinalini Manral tells PaymentsSource

In terms of the significant gap in card penetration in Asia and Africa, Manral believes card penetration will grow but only if the banking sector is able to expand in the rural areas.

“Once they are able to do that, card penetration numbers would look very different,” he says.

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