In a finding gift-wrapped for the card industry, more people say they plan to use debit cards for holiday shopping this year, a survey has found.

The telephone survey, commissioned by MasterCard International, found that 24% of 1,000 respondents plan to buy holiday goods with debit cards this year, versus the 20% who said they would last year.

The jump of 4 percentage points would translate into eight million users, judging by statistics MasterCard has released about its debit card customers.

"It's clear that a growing number of Americans are realizing the benefits of shopping with a debit card," said Charlotte Newton, vice president for consumer affairs at MasterCard, of Purchase, N.Y.

MasterCard and Visa U.S.A. have been cheerleading loudly for debit cards as they try to coax Americans to use fewer checks and less cash.

Their efforts have paid off. At yearend 1996, MasterCard's debit card charge volume was $8.7 billion, more than twice what it was the year before. Likewise, Visa reported $54 billion in debit card volume in 1996, an increase of 70% from 1995.

Because the holiday season is traditionally the busiest time for retailers, the associations are hopeful their heavy investments in debit card advertising will attract more consumers to the payment option.

Arthur E. Clark, a partner at Business Dynamics Consulting in Nyack, N.Y., said he expects debit card spending to rise "significantly" this year, "just from the fact that debit cards have been promoted more by the associations and the banks."

"It's an ongoing effort to get consumers comfortable used to using debit cards at the point of sale," Mr. Clark said. "I think we are seeing the results in terms of consumer spending."

The MasterCard study, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International of Princeton, N.J., also found that debit cards are more popular among younger people. More than 30% of respondents 18 to 35 said they used the card, versus only 5% of senior citizens.

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