Consumer Payment Card News

Debit Cards Soar

Consumers love plastic payment cards – – – in any variety. Ten years ago many industry experts poo-pooed debit cards saying they will never take off and if they do, debit cards will cannibalize credit cards. These experts were wrong on both counts. Consumers have taken to debit cards faster than they took to credit cards. Debit card use is soaring by 40% in dollar volume and 25% in transaction volume. And while the annual increase in credit card use has slowed somewhat, there is absolutely no indication that consumers are replacing credit cards with debit cards. However some consumers do say now that they prefer debit cards over credit cards due to the “hassle factor” with credit cards. “Hassle factor” refers to aggressive late fees, punitive interest rates, and other nuisance-type pricing prevalent among major credit card issuers. Nevertheless consumers are using debit cards more than their check books which is why VISA calls their debit card a Check Card. MasterCard’s debit card is the MasterMoney card. Incidentally most debit cards are used for local purchases. This holiday season consumers will use debit cards about 499 million times, debiting their checking or savings account for an average of $37.68 per transaction, according to CardWeb’s CardData service. Last year Americans used debit cards approximately 354 million times during the Christmas shopping season.

Debit Card Growth (VISA and MasterCard-branded cards)

Number of Debit Cards-in-Force
1990    8.3 million
1991  11.2 million
1992  13.6 million
1993  18.2 million
1994   25.1 million
1995   39.9 million
1996   61.2 million
1997   80.4 million
1998   99.4 million
1999  120.0 million (projected)

Number of Debit Card Transactions (Visa and MasterCard-branded debit cards)
1990    91 million
1991  160 million
1992  201 million
1993  280 million
1994  465 million
1995  802 million
1996  1.2 billion
1997  1.9 billion
1998  2.4 billion
1999  3.1 billion (projected)
Source CardData (

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