The Evolution of U.S. Payroll Cards in the 21st Century


Prepaid payroll cards are no longer just for the underbanked and unbanked. New research from Mercator Advisory Group shows that the market for prepaid payroll cards now attracts high-income consumers.

Author: C. Sue Brown
Published on: August 19, 2019

Mercator Advisory Group’s new research report titled The Evolution of U.S. Payroll Cards in the 21st Century provides an analysis of the payroll card market that includes its size and a forecast of its growth, an review of how the payroll product line has evolved, and a discussion of the stakeholders.

Mercator Advisory Group’s forecast report identifies the demographics of payroll card users and explores survey data revealing that they are not as homogenous as they might seem. The report discusses the attributes that consumers desire in a payroll card as well as the attributes employers seek in a payroll card program. The report reviews some of the changes the payroll card market has undergone in the last several years as it evolves to meet the needs of its changing consumer base.

Additionally, the report looks at the ever-changing regulatory environment for payroll cards, which varies by state. While some controls are necessary, payroll programs face compliance risks at both the state and federal level that demand continual awareness of regulatory changes.

“The payroll card is a unique product that can save its users money in a way that makes money for providers, which means that it can help a large number of people, including some of the most financially vulnerable. Persons with incomes exceeding $100,000 also find today’s payroll cards appealing,” commented C. Sue Brown, Director of Mercator Advisory Group’s Prepaid Advisory Service, and author of the report.

This research report has 19 pages and 9 exhibits.

Companies and other organizations mentioned in the report include: American Express, Careington International, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Discover, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Mastercard, PayPerks, and Visa.


Highlights of the report include:

  • History and current status of payroll cards
  • Loads in the Payroll segment of prepaid payment cards in the U.S. have grown steadily. In 2017, loads were $40.3 billion, and Mercator Advisory Group projects that loads will reach $50.9 billion in 2021.
  • Mercator Advisory Group’s survey findings on payroll card users, with breakdown by age, ownership of other card types, and mobile payment experience
  • Discussion of the benefits of payroll card use for employers and employees
  • The likely negative consequences of anticipated regulation at both the state and federal level for payroll card programs and the people the regulations are intended to protect
  • Recommendations for design of successful payroll card programs



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