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Membership in debit card rewards programs has increased among consumers, suggest data from First Data Competitive Intelligence, the research unit of First Data Corp. First Data's Consumer Loyalty Study, which involved surveying 2,449 U.S. consumers in April, found that 45% of those surveyed were participants in debit card rewards programs this year compared with 34% who were in 2008. The study also found that consumers also are using debit rewards more often than credit card rewards. "Good debit-rewards programs are becoming much more compelling through merchant-funded offers and flexible redemption options, which are attracting more consumers," Julie Bohn, First Data vice president of information services, said in an e-mail. As many as 66% of debit card rewards members used their program "every time" or "most of the time" compared with 51% of credit card rewards members that did. The economy is to blame, Bohn said. "Many credit card issuers are suffering from consumer back-lash due to the economic downturn, which has resulted in traditional credit card consumers moving to debit cards," she said. "These consumers are looking for the type of rewards programs they enjoyed when using their credit cards." Consumers in their 20s (so-called Generation Y) are predominantly using debit cards instead of credit cards and, therefore, are taking advantage of debit rewards for everyday spend, she adds.

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