Consumer Payment Card Usage During Coronavirus Pandemic Could Mirror the Great Recession

Press Release
Apr 16, 2020

Rockville (MD), April 16, 2020 – New consumer patterns in use of payment cards emerged in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008-2009. That crisis—being now being echoed by the coronavirus pandemic-triggered economic crises—brought enormous financial insecurity to consumers struggling with plummeting home values and soaring unemployment rates, notes market research firm Packaged Facts in the new report Consumer Payment Card Usage Trends in the U.S. Even those who managed to retain their homes and their jobs found their access to credit constrained, and their own interest in acquiring more debt abated, corresponding to heightened awareness of the risk of carrying credit.   

The Great Recession changed the purchasing methods favored by consumers as individuals and households responded to their own changed circumstances and lenders’ responses to the crisis. Indeed, for many credit cardholders, unsecured lines of credit were either closed after default, or largely clawed back by card issuers trying to lessen their exposure to consumer credit risk. Lenders also scaled back on consumer access to home equity lines of credit (LOC) as home values plummeted or were foreclosed.  

The Great Recession also brought changes in households’ ability to build credit.  In 2006, U.S. households under the age of 45 held 24% of the nation’s home equity. By 2017, that share had dropped to 14%. The sharp proportional decline in equity has meant there is less collateral against which to borrow for large ticket items.  Also affecting Gen X and Millennial household balance sheets is the $1.64 trillion in student loans held by these younger U.S. consumers.  In response, many consumers switched to debit cards for their daily shopping, while credit card companies fought back with rewards programs . Consumer also took to gift card and other prepaid options with no credit or bank account strings attached.

The changes and switches during that period still shape the payment card market today. According to data featured in Consumer Payment Card Usage Trends in the U.S., use of debit cards (78% of adults as of 2019) is more prevalent than use of credit cards (68%), and online payment (43%) remains more common than mobile payment (26%). Buying gift cards is also common, at 39% of adults in 2019. Prepaid cards have a smaller but stable consumer base (14%).

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About Packaged Facts

Packaged Facts, a division of, publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer market topics, including consumer demographics and shopper insights, consumer financial products and services, consumer goods and retailing, and pet products and services. Packaged Facts also offers a full range of custom research services. Reports can be purchased at our company website and are also available through

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