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Despite Durbin Amendment, Banks Pushing Debit Cards

CHICAGO -- Debit card usage is rising, and banks are responding by sending customers more direct marketing offers to try and capitalize on the growing market. Despite the Durbin Amendment, which went into effect in October 2011 and capped debit swipe fees, banks sent approximately 42 million offers for new debit cards last year, a 6-percent increase over 2011, according to new research from Mintel Compremedia.

"While direct marketing volumes are up only slightly, it's taken two years for banks to determine how to tackle debit, and as a result, the content of the ads has changed dramatically," said Susan Wolfe, vice president of research at Mintel Comperemedia. "In direct mail for debit cards, we no longer see the debit reward programs and high-value incentives that were popular pre-Durbin Amendment. Some incentives still exist, but the value is much lower."

Today’s direct marketing campaigns encourage consumers to use debit cards because of their security and convenience, especially for everyday use. Marketing pieces are also encouraging people to use their debit cards more often, activate new cards and take advantage of newly released card features. Additionally, banks have begun introducing statement rewards programs to replace older debit reward programs.

Debit cards remain the most popular plastic payment type among Americans, according to Mintel Comperemedia. In 2011, debit purchase volume increased 12 percent, compared to just an 8-percent increase for credit purchase volume. The number of debit card transactions increased 10 percent from 2010 to 2011, while the number of credit card transactions increased by only 7 percent over the same time period.

"Banks have a vested interest in increasing debit card usage, as increasing volumes will increase revenue, " Wolfe noted. "Getting customers to use their debit cards throughout their day could have a big impact on transaction volumes and thus, the revenue."

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