How Many Credit Cards Are In Circulation?

Since the late 20th century, many industry experts and scholars have debated the possibility of a cashless society. This debate is fueled by the continuing growth in the number of credit and debit cards and the increasing number of digital transactions. In fact, many employees today do not even receive the traditional paycheck. Instead, their salaries are direct deposited to their bank accounts, or they receive a transfer to their debit card.

With the rapid growth in people using these cards in place of checks or cash, there has been an explosive growth in debit and credit card processing services. Even the smallest businesses find it necessary to have merchant accounts to take care of their customers and the lack of individuals carrying cash.

More U.S. Credit and Debit Cards than People

While the very first credit card, a Diners Card, wasn’t introduced until the late ‘50s, the world is now awash with credit and debit cards. Just a few of the statistics from the major vendors as of 2013 include:

• Visa has 278 million cards out in the U.S. and 522 worldwide, plus another 428 million and 906 million debit cards, respectively.
• MasterCard has 180 million cards out in the U.S. and 551 million worldwide, plus another 144 million and 336 million debit cards, respectively.
• American Express adds 52 million cards to the U.S. total and another 52 million worldwide.
• The average U.S. consumer had 3.7 cards at the end of 2009
• At least 72 percent of all consumers use a credit card monthly, the number is 77 percent for debit cards and 32 percent for prepaid cards.
• Over 65 percent of businesses use credit cards monthly
• Total purchase volume on credit cards alone was more than $1.2 trillion in 2012
• More than 42 billion debit card transactions represented $1.7 trillion in purchases

A Growing Trend

If these numbers don’t adequately relate the volume of debit and credit card processing, the fact that the numbers increase each year does show the trend to the cashless society. Whether a traditional retailer or an online seller, almost all business find they need to have merchant accounts to process all these digital transactions.

This leaves the question, “Is the truly cashless society just around the corner.” Time will, of course, provide the answer. The truth is, however, for many individuals, they almost never handle cash and can’t imagine life without plastic.

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