The Debit Revolution

By Petro, Dave | Independent Banker, April 1998 | Go to article overview

The Debit Revolution


Petro, Dave, Independent Banker


Editor's Note: Bank cards are a hot topic in the financial services industry today. ATMs offer more than just cash. Debit cards are growing fast, and smart cards loom on the horizon. Look for Dave Petro's tips, insight and industry soundings in this bimonthly column in Independent Banker.

In the classic 1960s movie "The Graduate," actor Dustin Hoffman was advised to consider plastics for his future. Community bankers in the late 1990s are well-served to consider that same advice.

Plastic bank cards are more versatile and convenient to use for everyday consumer payments than paper checks. Card-based retail purchases are projected to represent more than 35 percent of all consumer transactions before 2001, and they could even exceed SO percent by 2007.

While these numbers include credit cards, the largest segment of transaction growth involves debit cards, and the trend promises only to accelerate. Already nearly one in four Visa transactions is a retail debit payment. Several studies suggest that some consumers are beginning to shop for debit card services when they consider where to do their personal banking. Those people are already hooked on the direct, immediate payments debit cards offer.

ATM cards, proprietary cards that originally could only be used at a particular bank's ATMs, were the first type of debit cards. Even 20 years ago the convenience of obtaining cash from a teller machine anytime of the day was important to a significant number of consumers. For many years, it was a widespread industry goal to get at least one-third of the population using ATM cards. …

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