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Debit rewards head for extinction?

By Greg McBride, CFA · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Posted: 12 pm ET

I'm a frequent guest on the Tony Conley Show on WILS-AM in Lansing, Mich. Last week, Tony and I talked about Bankrate's 2011 Debit Card Rewards Study. Here are some highlights from that conversation.

Tony: Debit card rewards offers fell 30 percent over the last year, according to a Bankrate.com study. Man, that's a lot! 

Greg: Yeah, it sure is. You've got the recent, what's known as the Durbin Amendment, going into effect the beginning of this month. And what that did is that cuts the revenue the banks get every time a consumer swipes a debit card by about half. And these debit reward programs are essentially a revenue-sharing arrangement between the card issuer and the cardholder. You cut the revenue that the banks are getting in half, and the obvious casualty is the debit rewards program. And so, not surprising, we saw a 30 percent decline in the number of programs that are available. And, frankly Tony, I think that's something we're going to see more of as the next year unfolds. 

Tony: I was wondering how much the decision by Bank of America to put that $5 fee on the use of debit cards is going to affect, not only their business, but perhaps cause other banking institutions to do the same. 

Greg: A lot of the larger banks are going to be looking at this, just because they're the ones that are impacted by this decline in revenue. It's smaller community banks and credit unions that are largely exempt from that change, and so they don't need to recoup revenue. They don't have to do away with the free checking account or institute the debit card fee or eliminate the debit rewards program like you're seeing so many of the larger banks do.

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1 Comment
Wolverine
October 19, 2011 at 8:47 am

Years from now, people will look back at 2011 ask themselves: Where were you when debit card rewards ceased to extinct?