In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of debit transactions declined 2.5% in 2020, the first dip in the 16-year history of the Pulse debit issuer survey released today. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of debit transactions declined 2.5% in 2020, the first dip in the 16-year history of the Pulse debit issuer survey released today. Debit transactions declined to 76.1 billion in 2020 from 78.1 billion in 2019.
While the number of transactions declined, the debit dollar volume increased 8% year-over-year. The average ticket size increased to $44.80 in 2020 from $40.50 the prior year, boosting debit volume to $3.4 trillion in 2020. “With many restaurants and retail locations closed for several months in 2020, generally people headed out less often which meant fewer debit purchases, but they stocked up when they did go out for groceries and other necessities,” said Tony Hayes of Oliver Wyman, which conducted the study for Pulse.
Spending patterns shifted as American stayed home, with card-not-present transactions rising 23% year-over-year. Of the top 10 merchant categories for debit purchases, bookstores, including Amazon, increased 57%, digital goods increased 41% and home supply retail increased 22%. Transportation dropped 53% and restaurants and bars declined 18%.
The rollout of contactless debit cards increased from 11% of all debit cards in 2019 to 30% in 2020. A third of cardholders with contactless cards said they used the capability.