Debit Card Use, Market Penetration Rises in 2017, Survey Finds

Debit card use and market penetration continued to grow in 2017, while fraud losses declined, according to Pulse’s debit issuer survey released today. The rate of checking accounts with associated debit cards ticked up one point to 76 percent, while the share of debit cards used at least once per month rose one point to 66 percent. Active debit card users on average made 23.7 purchases per month, up from 22.9 in 2016.

More than nine in 10 debit cards are now chip-enabled, the survey found, although just 40 percent of transactions actually involve the chip. While that figure is up 10 percentage points from the year before, Pulse attributed the lag in chip-to-chip debit transactions to low chip terminal adoption at small retail outlets and gas stations as well as the volume of card-not-present transactions. However, Pulse said that the growth in chip-to-chip transactions contributed to a 5.5 percent year-over-year drop in estimated debit fraud losses.

Eighty-six percent of debit issuers participate in at least one mobile wallet, the survey showed. Cardholder enrollment in Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay approximately doubled year-over-year, but monthly debit transaction volumes remained roughly flat, Pulse found. Mobile wallet debit payments accounted for just 0.6 percent of point-of-sale transactions.

“The debit landscape continues to change dramatically,” said Steve Sievert, EVP at Pulse, which is a Discover company. “We’ve moved from the simple world of ‘PIN or signature’ to an array of options, including PIN-less and signature-less transactions at the point of sale and biometric authentication in digital commerce and mobile wallets.” The American Bankers Association endorses the signature debit product offered by Discover.