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Debit card interchange seems likely to continue as a key part of credit union income, according to a recent study from Discover Financial Services and its subsidiary PULSE ATM and EFT network.The two released the “2009 Debit Issuer Study,” which covered 73 large banks, community banks and credit unions and was commissioned from the Oliver Wyman financial research firm.“Although the economy is a challenge for debit card issuers, as it is for everyone, debit transaction growth remains strong,” said Cindy Ballard, PULSE executive vice president. “Debit card use is expected to continue to grow as the economy bottoms out and begins to recover, because consumers use their debit cards for a large portion of necessary everyday expenses.”The study revealed that more than a quarter of all debit transactions (27%) in 2008 were for less than $10.“In most cases, these transactions are replacing cash, highlighting a clear consumer preference for electronic payments,” said Ballard.The report suggested growth needs to flow from existing debit card users who will use their debit cards more frequently rather than from issuing more cards to more people.According to the study, debit card penetration of eligible bank customers and credit union members has remained flat at 73% for two years. However, the study pointed out that the “best-in-class” debit issuers have penetration rates of as high as 91%.The study also noted that 8% of all debit cards issued are used only at ATMs and that “converting a ‘nonuser’ to a ‘user’ is a considerable challenge.”The study found that average debit transaction value was $42 for PIN debits and $37 for signature debits; both figures have declined by roughly $1 compared to the previous study. In addition, active debit cardholders performed 17.3 point-of-sale transactions per month, on average, compared to 16.6 transactions per month in the 2008 survey.When it comes to fraud, the study delivered some positive news, reporting that debit card fraud losses at the point-of-use declined in all categories.PIN point-of-sale losses, as measured in dollars per card per year, fell to 15 cents from 19 cents. Similarly, ATM losses declined to 56 cents per card per year from 61 cents, and signature debit loss rates fell to $1.81 from $1.92.–[email protected]

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