Mercator Blog

Prepaid Cards Gaining Traction in the U.S.
Date: December 6, 2013
Karen Augustine
Manager, Primary Data Services
Mercator Advisory Group’s Tenth Annual U.S. Prepaid Cards Market Forecast 2013–2016, which identifies prepaid card loads, growth, and market dynamics across 26 market segments, presents research showing that growth in prepaid cards slowed in 2013 because of ongoing economic turmoil and increased legislative and regulatory action.

Although prepaid growth may have slowed temporarily, findings from the latest report in Mercator Advisory Group’s CustomerMonitor Survey Series (CMSS) survey of 3,000 U.S. adult consumers, fielded in June 2013, suggests that consumers are using prepaid cards in more ways and in more places than ever before. Over half (53 percent) of the respondents recalled buying prepaid cards within the year prior to the survey. And more recalled buying each type of prepaid card—general purpose reloadable (GPR), general purpose nonreloadable, retailer-specific prepaid, gift cards for online services, and prepaid mobile phone cards—up from 47 percent of respondent to our 2012 survey who recalled buying prepaid cards. This year, we added two new categories—transit and long distance phone service cards—to better correlate with the prepaid categories listed in Mercator Advisory Group’s Tenth Annual U.S. Open-Loop Prepaid Cards Market Assessment and Prepaid Industry Overview.

The CMSS survey finds that consumers are using prepaid cards more for their own personal use now, although more consumers still buy prepaid cards for gifts than for self-use. The trend of purchase for personal use is even more apparent for virtual cards. Of the more than 1 in 4 consumers who bought virtual cards in the year preceding the survey, half report purchasing them as gifts and half for their own use. In fact, prepaid cards appear to be gaining traction among mobile users, as the survey finds smartphone and tablet owners are more likely than average to buy any type of prepaid card.

For more information on attitudes, interest in, and use of prepaid cards, GPR card reloading activity and card duration, interest and use of direct deposit, brand awareness, and buying behavior of eight major GPR card brands, features most important for prepaid, other factors that may impact the growth of prepaid cards as a primary payment tool in the U.S., please refer to Mercator Advisory Group’s CMSS research report, Prepaid 2013: U.S. Consumers Buying More Cards for Own Use.