Hispanics Increasingly Turning To Debit

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Debit cards are being increasingly used by Hispanic-Americans consumers to replace cash and checks as the preferred payment method, according to a new study by MasterCard International.

According to MasterCard's Hispanic Debit Cardholder Survey, debit card usage is up 41% over the past two years, with cardholders citing convenience, safety and acceptance as the reasons. During the same period there has been an 11% increase in the usage of checks by Hispanics and a 22% decrease in cash use.

The survey was based on interviews with 1,500 "banked" Hispanic-Americans in Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami and New York,-cities that are home to 42% of the Hispanic population in the U.S.

Among the findings:

Efforts by financial institutions to reach out in Spanish are key informing the group about the benefits and advantages of debit cards.

* Sixty-five percent of respondents considered themselves "extremely" or "very knowledgeable" about how debit cards work, and 94% said they were "somewhat knowledgeable."

* Eighty-eight percent reported they obtained their knowledge of debit card usage from a financial institution's customer/member service representative, who explained the institution's debit program in detail in Spanish. Eighty- four percent received informational brochures, with 82% saying brochures were available in Spanish.

* The survey found that debit was the payment choice for midrange purchases between $50 and $100. Debit cards were as likely to be used as credit cards for mid- to high-end purchases ($100-$500). Ninety-four percent said they used their card at least once to make a purchase, with 84% saying they'd made a purchase with their card within the previous three months.

* The study also found that Hispanic respondents viewed debit cards as a superior spending-management tool to checks.

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