Swipe struggle: Why debit cards are facing an identity crisis


Pratik Bhakta

192 reads

Pratik Bhakta

192 reads

Debit cards have not recovered from their pandemic-time slump. And in a further blow to their relevance and market share, UPI has taken over small-value payments and credit cards are cornering big-ticket purchases

October 03, 2022


In 2009, when Indian consumers had grown fond of ATMs, gleefully miscalling them as “any time money”, State Bank of India and Visa ran separate ads to promote debit cards. The commercials depicted withdrawing cash for everyday spends as an avoidable annoyance, recommending that one should swipe directly at the point of purchase.

The tip may seem a no-brainer today, but at the time, getting people to make fewer cash runs took some convincing. Indeed, the concept took off, especially among salaried workers, and India is now a mighty market of 92 crore debit cards. 

Despite this scale, they perhaps need another marketing boost to reaffirm their relevance in a post-Covid world. The widespread adoption of digital payments and renewed interest in credit cards have left them with an existential crisis — and a gradually thinning market pie.

Data from the Reserve Bank of India shows that debit-card transactions have slipped sharply from a high three years ago. The volume has just not recovered from the pandemic’s blow.

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