Are Debit Card Fees Meant to Get Consumers to Use Credit Cards More?

by Mercator Advisory Group 0

In the wake of Durbin Amendment-driven pricing changes to debit cards at major banks, a new wave of conspiracy theories are suggesting that the goal of new fees is to drive consumer to credit cards:

Even if a debit card backlash occurs, however, the banks may be OK with that. Why? Because if customers use their bank-issued debit cards less, chances are they’ll be using bank-issued credit cards more.

A post from the credit card analysis site points out that credit cards aren’t covered in the new interchange regulations, and banks typically earn a healthy 2% with each and every credit card transaction. That’s far more than the piece of the action a bank gets from the typical swipe of a debit card. What’s more, if customers switch from debit to credit cards, they risk the danger that pushed so many consumers away from credit cards and toward debit card usage in the first place: credit card debt.

While this makes for good copy, consumer behavior suggests otherwise. Debit cards are the most preferred payment type. Fewer consumers carry credit cards than just three years ago, thanks to recessionary pressures. Debit holders in Mercator’s research continue to say they use their debit cards to avoid building their credit card balances. And if debit were to go away, cash would be the most likely beneficiary—or perhaps an exempt institution with “free” debit cards. Unfortunately for credit card marketers, getting consumers to switch to credit from debit is not an easy task in today’s economic environment.

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