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Use of Electronic Payments Growing

When making purchases in stores, U.S. consumers are using their credit and debit cards for payment more often than cash and checks; however when paying bills, they prefer to pay by check, according to the results of a new study of consumer payment preferences from the American Bankers Association and Dove Consulting.

Debit cards—growing in popularity—contributed significantly to the increase use of electronic payments. In 1999, debit cards represented only 21% of in-store transactions; today about 31% of purchases (or every one out of three) are made with a debit card, the study shows.

The study found that together, cash and checks now account for 47% of consumers' in-store purchases, compared to 57% in 1999 and 51% in 2001.

But focus on the single most frequently used method of payment in stores, and you'll find that cash is still king. Although its share in the payments mix has fallen from 39% in 1999 to 32% in 2003, cash is still the number one way to pay—with more than 32% of consumers using their greenbacks in stores.

Consumers pay by check for only 15% of in-store purchases, but still prefer to pay bills with them. However, electronic methods such as automatic payment and online bill payment are increasing in popularity. Sixty percent of consumers use some form of automatic payment and 41% of consumers use online bill payment—it represents one of the fastest growing payment methods.

"As consumers write fewer checks for bill payments, financial institutions and payment organizations have the ability to play an active role in influencing what payment methods are used in their place," Tony Hayes, Managing Director of Dove's Financial Services Practice and author of the study said in a statement.

ACI Worldwide, eFunds Corp. and PULSE EFT Association sponsored the research. More than 2,000 people responded to the survey.

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Gift Cards Emerge as Perfect Choice for Person with Everything

Washington, DC, November 20, 2003 – There will be less guesswork in gift buying this holiday, according to the findings of a new National Retail Federation (NRF) survey. The inaugural NRF Gift Card Survey, conducted by BIGresearch for NRF, found that 69.9 percent of consumers plan to buy gift cards this holiday, spending an average of $34.24 per card.

“Gift cards are a great selection for the person who has everything,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “They are more convenient than the gift certificates of years’ past and they’re no longer considered the ‘lazy man’s gift’—people love to get them.” In fact, nearly 50 percent of consumers (48.4%) in an earlier NRF holiday survey said they would like to receive gift cards this year, up from 41.3 percent last year.

NRF experts think the economy may be driving much of the gift card excitement. “Most consumers have been avidly watching their wallets for over a year and haven’t been spending much on themselves,” said Phil Rist, Vice President of Strategy for BIGresearch. “Receiving a gift card for the holidays and actually being able to go to the store and browse for yourself can be a liberating and much more rewarding experience than opening up another shirt and tie.”

The study also found that:

Consumers plan to spend $17.24 billion on gift cards this holiday, which would account for nearly 8 percent of all holiday sales.

The average person purchasing a gift card will be purchasing more than three card (3.34), spending a total of $114.44.

Older consumers are spearheading gift card growth. Consumers over age 65 plan to buy 3.90 cards, on average, spending $130.62. Consumers 55-64 will purchase an average of 3.61 cards, spending $134.80.

Men plan to spend $120.57 each on gift cards while women plan to spend $109.23.

Gift card facts:

Many retailers do not count a gift card as a sale—instead, they wait until the gift card is redeemed and merchandise is exchanged. As a result, some of the $17.24 billion spent on gift cards this holiday may not show up in “holiday” sales, but instead as sales in January or February, when the gift card is redeemed.

Most of today’s gift cards differ from traditional gift certificates because they are “stored value” cards. When a consumer spends $25 from a $50 gift card, the card automatically updates the balance. This is more efficient than the retailer reissuing another gift certificate to the consumer for the balance.

Retailers have different policies for gift cards. Some stores’ gift cards expire over a certain period of time (usually 12 months or more) and some stores’ cards depreciate month-by-month if a card has been inactive for a certain period of time. This is often the result of retailers using third-party companies to process and maintain their gift card systems. Often, third party companies charge retailers for inactivity on gift cards—a charge that retailers then pass to consumers who have not used their cards. As always, NRF recommends that consumers understand individual retailers’ policies before purchasing gift cards.

Due to improved technology, some retailers are able to reissue a lost gift card if consumers have kept the original purchase receipt.

Another convenience factor is that many stores are able to carry gift cards at their check-out counters because today’s gift cards are not active until scanned. Also, many retailers like grocery stores carry a variety of different gift cards at their registers—for movie theaters, coffee shops, and clothing stores. NRF continues to forecast that holiday sales will increase 5.7 percent this year to $217.4 billion, which would be the largest increase since 1999.

About the Survey

The NRF 2003 Gift Card Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey, which polled 6,551 consumers, was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch from November 6-12, 2003. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearch’s syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 7,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet and independent stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.4 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 20 million employees – about one in five American workers – and 2002 sales of $3.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com


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