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Credit card users cutting back

Credit Card Terminal

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: It's Thursday, the last day of July, and that means a lot of us are going to be getting our bank and credit card statements in the mail pretty soon.

Both Visa and Mastercard made plenty of money off of us pulling the plastic out of our wallets, but both companies also said they saw signs of slowing growth in credit card use.

Our New York bureau chief Amy Scott reports.


Amy Scott: At the Amish Market in Manhattan today, Thomas Millson paid for his sandwich and soda with plastic, but not the kind that can lead to piles of debt.

Thomas Millson: I paid with a debit card. I usually try and stay within my means.

Signs are more people are thinking like Millson these days. James Van Dyke is president of Javelin Strategy and Research. He says 37 percent of people his firm surveyed have cut back on their credit card spending. He chalked it up to concerns about the economy.

James Van Dyke: They're holding off on credit cards, they're being cautious about building up a big balance that they might have trouble paying off later and they're not buying some things that maybe are really discretionary spend items.

Others say consumers have no choice but to lay off the charge cards. People hurt by job cuts or the housing downturn may have maxed out. Banks facing their own credit woes have reduced credit limits, raised interest rates and made it harder to get new cards. Have you noticed you're not getting as many offers in the mail?

Moshe Katri follows the credit card business for Cowen Equity Research. He says MasterCard and Visa are still making money on growth overseas and on debit cards -- they're linked to checking accounts.

Moshe Katri: The major driver here is the ongoing shift away from cash and checks to cards. Now in our view, people will continue to use cards even in a tough environment.

Visa and MasterCard make less money on each debit card swipe than on credit card transactions, but both companies say debit card spending is growing at least twice as fast.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.
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