Debit card growth fueled by small ticket transactions

The days of weekly ATM withdrawals may be coming to a close as consumers turn to their debit cards to pay for both big and small everyday expenses.

During the heavy hit to the economy over the past two years, American consumers have turned to debit cards over other forms of payment at an increasing rate, according to the 2010 Debit Issuer Study funded by ATM/debit network PULSE. The growth rate from 2008 to 2009 was largely fueled by small-ticket transactions.

"The results of this year's Debit Issuer Study highlight the increasingly important role debit is playing in helping consumers manage their finances," said Cindy Ballard, PULSE executive vice president, in an e-mail statement.  "As consumers scaled back spending during the recession, they used debit more often, especially for small-ticket purchases under $20, and showed a continued preference for using debit instead of cash." This shows upward trending in a "pay-as-you-go approach" by consumers as well as an increasing acceptance of small debit transactions by merchants.

Of the card issuers and banks surveyed, debit transactions grew approximately 10 percent across the board. Additionally, the survey found that consumers prefer PIN-based debit transactions over signature debit purchases.

Debit card fraud, however, has increased exponentially with this growth. Tony Hayes, a partner at management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, suggested that "despite the uptick in fraud," consumers' debit "momentum" would likely spur better benefits and rewards programs from card issuers.

See related: 9 best practices for debit card use, 10 places NOT to use your debit card, 9 best practices for debit card use, Debit card reward offerings grow more diverse

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Updated: 03-26-2019