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Number of debit cards fall by 15% to hit two-year low in 2019: RBI data

Banks have stopped issuing suo moto cards for dormant accounts and moved to chip-based cards, weeding out many accounts

Nidhi Rai  |  Mumbai 

Digital, PoS machine, debit card, credit card, banking
Bankers believe this could be due to the RBI directive on EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) migration of debit cards from magnetic strip to chip-based cards.

data suggests that debit card numbers have plunged by 15 per cent in 2019 hitting a two-year low. The number of debit card has slipped from 998 million in 2018 to 843 million in 2019.

Bankers believe this could be due to the directive on EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) migration of from magnetic strip to chip-based cards. Some 155 million cards went out of the market because of this. In 2018 reissued cards as per the new directive and cards of inactive accounts were weeded out. Many have also enabled their cards for NFC (near-field communication-enabled or contactless cards) for tap-and-go payments.

Federal Bank Executive Director Ashutosh Khajuria said, “At our bank we are seeing a major shift of customers to UPI and other digital payment platforms. Usage of cards at points-of-sale (PoS) and ATM is also declining.”

have also stopped issuing to customers who have not asked for them, or if their accounts are dormant. Bharat Panchal, CRO, FIS Global, a financial service provider, said banks are saving money by not issuing cards for dormant accounts. He added, “For a bank, it is not prudent to keep servicing dormant accounts. One, the risk of fraud like money laundering increases. Second, there is the cost of maintaining such accounts. So, banks have stopped issuing cards suo motu unless approached by customers."

The reason for so many dormant accounts is that urban Indians change jobs frequently and stop operating the ones they opened during their previous employment, preferring instead to use the new salary accounts at their new place of work.

The fall in the number of has been cushioned by rural usage of RuPay debit cards via Jan Dhan accounts. The number of such RuPay cards grew 13.5 per cent year-on-year to 296.8 million as of November 2019, increasing debit card holding in poor families in India from 75 per cent to 80 per cent in a year.

Year No of Cards (million)
2015 610
2016 739
2017 860
2018 998
2019 843

First Published: Mon, December 23 2019. 17:08 IST