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Credit card transactions overtake debit transactions in Canada

In an unusual trend for a developed market, the number of credit card transactions in Canada has exceeded the number of debit purchase transactions for the first time since 1997, according to the recently released Canadian Payments Forecast, 2019.

The report estimates that 6.047 billion consumer credit card transactions were conducted in 2018, compared with 6.042 billion debit payment transactions. The gap between credit card transactions and debit card transactions is expected to widen over the next few years.

“With the rollout of Interac debit payments in the early 1990’s it was very evident that Canadian consumers embraced debit payments with vigour, and debit payment transactions overtook credit card transactions within a few years,” says Christie Christelis, President of Technology Strategies International. “Since then debit has had an almost unassailable lead, until recently.”

Debit card and credit card transactions have each exceeded cash purchase transactions for the past few years, says the report. Cash’s slow but steady decline illustrates the progressive substitution of cash by electronic forms of payment.

“One of the factors contributing to the growth differential between credit and debit purchase transactions is that Canadian consumers are using their credit cards for lower transaction value regimes, spurred mainly by the popularity of contactless payments,” Christelis explains. “The convenience of contactless payments has led to some substitution between debit and credit card payments.”

The report notes that even though online purchases only make up about 7% of Canadian retail purchases, the high growth in e-commerce has also had an impact on the increase in credit card transactions, since credit cards remain the most popular payment method for online purchases.

Christelis says that mobile payments are starting to gain some traction in Canada, with the majority of in-store mobile payment transactions being undertaken using a credit card. This currently makes a very small contribution to the growth differential between credit and debit card transactions, but it will be an important battleground for Interac to win if it wants to regain some ground and position itself for the future.

Additional highlights from the study are:

  • The number of debit and credit card payment transactions accounted for more than 60% of all payment transactions on personal consumption expenditure in 2018
  • The volume of contactless payment transactions grew by 33% in 2018, and accounted for more than 25% of the combined number of debit, credit and cash consumer payment transactions
  • Mobile has become a significant channel in the area of transfers and bill payments, and is expected to command the highest share of bill payments and transfers by 2020

The 260-page report provides a comprehensive review, analysis and forecast of consumer payments in Canada. It draws on established statistical sources as well the Canadian Consumer Payments Survey, 2019, conducted by TSI amongst more than 2,000 consumers. The report identifies high growth segments in the Canadian payments market in the context of some important recent developments in the economy, regulatory environment and the industry.

Detailed forecasts are presented for credit card payments, debit card payments, cash payments, cheque payments, contactless payments, prepaid cards, gift cards, P2P payments, remittances, online payments, mobile payments, bill payments and transfers, ABM installations and POS terminals.

 

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