Debit Beats Credit in Recession

Debit cards more popular than credit cards this year

By Caitlin Millat
|  Thursday, Apr 30, 2009  |  Updated 9:45 AM CDT
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Blame Them For Your Empty Wallet

Debit cards are overtaking credit cards as Americans' payment method of choice.

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Shopaholics are resisting the urge to buy now and pay later.

Debit cards have become more popular than credit for the first time this year as many cash-strapped consumers are having second thoughts about ringing up costly charges during a recession.

Debit-card transactions made up more than 50 percent of all Visa activity in the last quarter of 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported, marking debit's inaugural surge over credit.

MasterCard's debit volume skyrocketed more than 13 percent in the same period while credit-card usage dropped more than two percent, signaling a significant shift in how Americans are spending.

"The reality is that the vast majority of consumers want to pay as they go," the head of Visa's debit-card business Stancey Pinkerd told the Journal.

The costs of maintaining credit -- and the potential to build up debt that can't be paid back -- have caused recession-weary spenders to save up and dole out cash instead of splurging with credit, experts said.

The personal savings rate was up five percent in January, government figures show.

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