Almost a third of affluent debit cardholders do not use their cards regularly, according to a report to be released today by MasterCard Inc.'s consulting unit.

MasterCard Advisors found that 31% of cardholders with an annual household income above $75,000 do not use their card "on a regular basis," because they prefer to pay with credit cards.

"There's a significant opportunity around debit usage in that higher-income group," Greg Howes, a global solutions leader with MasterCard Advisors, said in an interview Monday. Such consumers make large purchases and prefer "centralizing their purchases around a credit rewards card."

Debit issuers can reach the affluent with their own reward offerings and "joint offers" with retailers "that have connections with an affluent debit" customer base, he said.

Banks generally earn more from credit transactions, but Mr. Howes said many issuers should still encourage affluent cardholders to pay with debit cards more often.

If a consumer has a credit card from a different issuer, the bank where the consumer has a checking account would "have an interest in converting them or displacing some of their transactions," he said. "From an issuing bank's point of view, having an active debit card is a stronger connection to a consumer" than a credit card.

The report is one of six based on an annual survey of more than 50,000 consumers. MasterCard Advisors analyzed data late last year from the 60% of consumers who said they use a debit card branded by any network.

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