More mobile and contactless opportunities may be in the future for debit card issuers. The 2018 Debit Issuer Study from Houston-based Pulse Network, released this week, found 12.2% of debit cards were enrolled in Apple Inc.’s Apple Pay as of January, up from 6.3% in January 2017.
Debit card enrollment in the other major mobile wallets, Samsung Pay and Google Pay, also increased, but trailed far behind Apple Pay. For Samsung Pay, the percentage is 1.5%, up from 0.8% in January 2017. For Google Pay, the tally is 1.3% in January, compared with 0.6% a year earlier.
While Pulse didn’t query consumers for this report, anecdotal evidence from issuers suggests a couple of reasons for the increase, especially for Apple Pay.
“Because this is a study of debit issuers rather than consumers, we don’t have any data to directly determine the cause of the increase we measured,” says Steve Sievert, Pulse executive vice president of marketing and brand communications. “We did hear two potential causes from issuers in the study. One pointed to the ease of provisioning a card into Apple Pay as a reason for the increase in participation in that wallet, which saw the highest increase in enrollment. Another issuer noted that provisioning a card into an iPhone and Apple Watch counts as two separate tokens, which may have contributed to the increase.”
That does not necessarily mean that mobile payments use with debit cards is surging. Indeed, the study says that Apple Pay use grew only slightly, from 0.6 monthly transactions per enrolled card in January 2017 to 0.7 in January 2018. Both Samsung Pay and Google Pay were flat, at 1.3 and 0.7, respectively.
Issuer participation, overall, is strong, with 86% of debit card issuers in at least one mobile wallet, Pulse says.
In related results, when asked if they were considering introducing contactless cards in the next two years, 37% of the surveyed issuers indicated they were. Only 5% offered contactless cards at the time of the survey.
While such cards, most likely containing a contact chip and an antenna for tap-and-go transactions, have long been viewed as a way to displace cash, especially for small-ticket purchases, consumers have yet to warm to them.
Sievert advises against harboring high expectations.
“We think that number requires a couple of caveats,” he says. “First, we believe issuers are considering these cards for limited use cases like transit cards, where contactless would be particularly relevant. In addition, while their interest in contactless is increasing, their comments indicated they are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach.”