HOUSTON (8/19/08)--Surcharge-free ATM access is becoming more popular among debit card issuers, according to the PULSE 2008 Debit Issuer Study. Sixty-two financial institutions, including credit unions, participated in the study. The institutions issue a combined 74 million debit cards, or 28% of all U.S. debit cards. About 56% of survey respondents said they participate in a surcharge-free ATM network. Also, 84% of credit union respondents offer surcharge-free service to their members for certain “off-us” transactions, or transactions conducted at ATMs owned by other organizations. The study also indicated:
* ATM transaction activity is increasingly “on-us,” which means that cardholders are using issuers’ ATMs, limiting surcharges; * Active debit cardholders conduct 3.4 transactions per month; and * Heavy ATM users are also heavy debit card users, implying that cardholders do not use the “cash back” option often.
About 51% of respondents said they offer rewards programs, compared with 37% in 2006. Of those, 42% offer debit rewards programs, compared with 16% in 2006. Points-based rewards are the most common program type. Prepaid cards are gaining popularity, the survey said. About 61% of respondents said they offer the cards, with 16% looking to offer the cards in the future. The survey also addressed growth challenges, such as:
* Contactless cards--10% of respondents offer the cards, but only 24% of their cardholders use the technology. Key barriers to contactless adoption include merchant acceptance, unfavorable cost/benefit ratios and low demand; * Mobile banking--15% of respondents support mobile banking, while 28% said they will offer it soon; and * Mobile payments--56% of issuers said they are exploring the possibility of implementing this feature.
PULSE, an ATM/debit network, serves more than 4,500 financial institutions, including credit unions, nationwide.