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What will have the most significant impact on the number of credit card users in the next three years?

What will have the most significant impact on the number of credit card users in the next three years?

Biometrics, benefits, and Gen Z adoption will all impact the number of credit card users, members of Protocol's Braintrust say.

Good afternoon! In today's edition, we asked about the credit card landscape and asked experts to tell us the factors they thought would contribute most to its size. Questions or comments? Send us a note at

Luke Gebb

EVP, Amex Digital Labs at American Express

Big picture, credit card use will grow strongly over the next three years based on convenience and value to customers. It will continue taking share from cash and check, while competing handily for digital payments alongside other emerging modalities such as P2P, open banking rails, and even crypto. The degree of growth experienced will depend on how well companies in the space can capitalize on emerging technologies to meet customer needs. These include using AI, tokenization, and biometrics to drive down fraud, personalize products, predict and respond to servicing issues, and extend credit when helpful. Brands should also look to add value outside of pure payment, as Amex does with our Membership Rewards program, Amex Offers, the Resy restaurant reservation platform, our lounge network, and travel perks like Fine Hotels and Resorts. With these tools in hand, there is a strong growth trajectory for the industry.

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Julie Scharff

VP, U.S. card present & strategic initiatives at Visa

As the use of cash continues to wane, the rate at which credit cards can evolve to keep pace with consumer demands for more convenient payment experiences will have the most significant impact on the number of credit card users in the next few years. Credit card innovations such as contactless payments or tap to pay, crypto-linked cards and enhanced card rewards programs encourage the usage of credit cards and create seamless, faster, and more convenient payment experiences for consumers.

For instance, contactless card payments have played a pivotal role in helping the public transit industry recover from the impact of the pandemic. In fact, Visa alone has seen more one billion tap-to-ride transactions on transit systems across the globe in just the last ten months. We’ve even seen contactless payments become the norm, with 91% of public transit riders expecting it to be available as a payment option on public transit and nearly half of riders preferring to pay using contactless payments.

Innovations like contactless payments will continue to drive the future of credit cards usage, especially in large cities – providing consumers with a payment method that works at the same speed as the landscape shifts.

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Penny Lee

CEO at the Financial Technology Association

Americans increasingly want alternatives to high-interest products whose revenue models rely on consumer fees and often trap users in cycles of debt. For good reason — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that Americans pay $120 million a year in credit card interest and fees. In the next three years, expect to see more growth and popularity of fintech apps that break down barriers to financial services, especially among young people.

Younger generations tend to prefer debit cards to credit, and only 55% of 18- to 29-year-olds have a credit card, compared to more than seven in 10 of those ages 30 and up. They are using alternative products such as buy now, pay later that offer zero to low interest to shop or deal with an emergency. They are using earned wage access products to manage their cash flow between paychecks instead of taking on high-interest debt. Eighty-eight percent of U.S. consumers now use fintech apps and services. These rising adoption rates and the continued popularity of fintech products mark a significant change in consumer behavior.

Fintech is providing competitive credit alternatives for small businesses, too. Whether it’s access to capital or spend management tools, fintech serves the “missing middle” of small businesses that are often left out of conversations about consumer credit or services for big businesses.

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Bunita Sawhney

Executive vice president, U.S. financial institutions at Mastercard

According to the Mastercard New Payments Index, 87% of people in the U.S. said they would consider using at least one emerging payment method that they otherwise would not have tried. People’s propensity to use credit cards will continue to be driven by the value they get while using them.

At Mastercard, we’re laser-focused on delivering benefits relevant to people’s everyday lives. As our physical and digital worlds continue to evolve, grow, and get closer together, it’s critical that our card products seamlessly integrate into both. Convenience, personalization, and customization — for our issuing partners and consumers — is table stakes. People need to be able to access their cards when and where they need them.

It’s also important to remember why people are using cards; oftentimes they are a means to the experiences they love. We spend a tremendous amount of time understanding what people care about and how we can build card products and a brand they are proud to support, and have support them. For us, this is a mutual relationship. Mastercard’s Priceless platform connects people to their passions and offers unique, one-of-a-kind experiences that create lasting memories, all from one single transaction.

And while our tendency to live a more digital lifestyle continues to grow, security is paramount. People need to know that their transactions and their money is protected at every step of the way. Whether paying online, in stores, in apps, or via device, Mastercard’s security benefits help keep cardholders protected.

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Rachel Huber

Market intelligence lead at Marqeta

The most significant impact on the number of credit card users in the next three years will likely be Gen Z consumers coming of age and growing their spending power. This is a cohort of consumers who have grown up in the mobile era. They expect simple and intuitive user experiences delivered to them by brands they have strong affinity with. The credit card market has been through much less modernization than debit. In Marqeta’s 2022 State of Credit report, which surveyed 2,000 U.S. consumers, 1 in 4 Gen Z consumers surveyed said they were not satisfied with their primary credit card, while only 1 in 7 surveyed said that they felt like their primary credit card was personalized to them. The ability for financial innovators to build credit card products that appeal to this generation will have a huge impact on the credit card market by 2025. If they don’t meet this demand, credit card products will face increasingly stiff competition from buy now, pay later providers, who have a strong foothold with the younger generation: In our recent State of Credit report, 68% of U.S. Gen Z consumers surveyed had used a BNPL service in the last 30 days.

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See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated Oct. 6, 2022).
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