Credit cards are unlikely to dominate retail purchasing the way they did a decade ago, but they staged something of a comeback last year.
According to an annual study by The Nilson Report, retail spending on credit, debit and prepaid cards issued in the U.S. last year reached $4.91 trillion, an 8.4 percent increase over 2013.
Credit cards accounted for more than two-thirds of that spending — 67 percent — as recently as 2004, but their share has eroded with the rise of debit and prepaid cards. Down to 54.9 percent of purchases in 2009, they continued to fall, reaching 53 percent in 2013.
But credit cards saw their share move up once again last year, hitting 53.6 percent.
Credit cards bearing the brands of Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover generated $2.63 trillion in sales at merchants, a 9.7 percent gain. Debit and prepaid cards carrying those brands as well as EFT (electronic funds transfer) networks — such as Accel, Interlink, NYCE, Pulse and Star — saw sales rise 6.9 percent, to $2.28 trillion, over 2013.
Just three of the top 10 card issuers — J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Capital One — gained share during the year. J.P. Morgan topped the list, with consumer and commercial credit, debit and prepaid cards producing $703.32 billion in purchase volume last year, accounting for about 14.3 percent of spending at merchants for the year, a jump of 20 basis points. Wells Fargo’s share increased 18 basis points to 7.4 percent and Capital One’s added 3 basis points to 4.1 percent.
The other seven among the top 10 issues all had declines, with the steepest being Bank of America’s 55 basis point drop to 11.6 percent. American Express dropped 2 basis points to 13.4 percent but, based only on credit card purchase volume, remained the largest issuer. Bank of America had the same distinction in the debit and prepaid category.