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Consumers turn to debit cards for transactions

While credit cards are handy, debit cards are now more widely accepted for online shopping, as well as for use while abroad.

For many cost-conscious consumers, this means that credit cards are not as indispensable as they once were.

According to the Irish Payment Service Organisation (IPSO), which runs the Laser card scheme on behalf of banks, there are just over three million debit cards in circulation compared to just over two million credit cards.

In 2009, debit cards accounted for €11.2bn worth of card transactions by consumers here compared to €11.9 billion on credit cards. If the trend continues, spending by debit card is likely to overtake credit cards this year.


However, the Laser card scheme, which is jointly owned by Irish banks, is feeling competitive pressure from Visa Debit.

Ulster Bank switched to Visa Debit from Laser in 2008, citing the greater international acceptance of the Visa scheme.

Permanent TSB has become the first Irish-owned bank to replace its Laser cards with Visa Debit cards, which it started to issue to its customers last month.

It was also reported earlier this year that Mastercard was in talks with AIB and Bank of Ireland to bring its debit card into the Irish market.

Una Dillon of IPSO says that despite Permanent TSB's decision, there are "no plans" to close or phase out the Laser scheme.

However, she acknowledged that the Laser scheme may struggle to keep up with innovation in debit card technology.

"We are a small, low-cost scheme and it is financially difficult to keep up with innovation in the industry."

Irish Independent