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Over the past decade, the debit card has emerged from the shadow of its older sibling, the credit card. The US debit card industry is a multi-billion dollar engine that helps drive bank profits and point-of purchase consumer sales - but is also beginning to redefine traditional payment options in the business and government sectors. The debit card has arrived and is here to stay.
A debit card is a plastic card that provides the cardholder electronic access to his or her bank account(s) at a financial institution. Some cards have a stored value with which a payment is made, while most relay a message to the cardholder's bank to withdraw funds from a payee's designated bank account.
The card, where accepted, can be used instead of cash when making purchases. In some cases, the primary account number is assigned exclusively for use on the Internet and there is no physical card.
Debit cards also provide an option for an amount of cash back at point-of-sale terminals. The cash back option has allowed consumers to avoid fees that would be incurred at ATMs that are in different networks.
The leading issuer by debit card payment value in 2011 remained Bank of America, with 17% of the market, down slightly from 2010. The debit market marginally reversed its path of consolidation in 2011, with the four largest issuers representing under 41% of all debit payment value, versus just over 41% in 2010, as actions undertaken by the largest banks in response to interchange regulation drove some consumers to smaller competitors and credit unions.
In terms of total cards in circulation, Wells Fargo remained the leading issuer for the second year, and Bank of America stayed at second.
Despite regulatory hurdles and an uncertain economic environment, the US debit card industry is expected to continue to grow because of the financial management inherent in this type of card compared with cash. In absolute terms, the value of debit card payments is expected to increase by US$536 billion between 2012 and 2017.
For more information on the US debit card industry, see the latest research: US Debit Card Industry
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