The number of debit cards in India witnessed a two-year low in October with only 843 million of them in circulation as opposed to the 998 million in the same period last year, The Times of India reported on Monday. This is a 15% decline in two years in the total number of cards in circulation.
Experts in the banking sector said that around 155 million such cards were eliminated during the Europay/MasterCard/Visa or EMV migration from cards with magnetic strips to chip-based ones. This exercise rooted out the dormant accounts along with the cards that were inactive. According to the Reserve Bank of India, all banks had to switch to the EMV chip-based cards as they are considered to be more secure.
“For a bank, it is not prudent to keep servicing dormant accounts,” financial services provider Fidelity National Information Services, Inc’s Chief Risk Officer Bharat Panchal told the newspaper. “One, the risk of fraud like money-laundering increases. And second, there is the cost of maintaining such an account. So, banks have stopped issuing cards suo motu unless approached by the customer.”
In 2018, banks engaged in reissuing all the debit cards with more than 80% of it done by April this year. The cause of the rise in dormant accounts was attributed to the frequent switching of jobs among current salaried professionals. A series of zero-balance accounts are left remaining as young urban Indians purportedly switch banks more often.
The dip in the number of debit cards could be sharper if not for the increase in the use of debit cards in rural India through Jan Dhan accounts. These account holders increased by 13.5% year-over-year to 296.8 million by November this year. The debit card holding in poor families in the country saw an increase from 75% to 80% in a year.