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Forty percent of consumers find the idea of a decoupled debit card appealing, according to a report issued by Synergistics Research Corp.

Fourteen percent of the 1,041 adults participating in a phone survey the Atlanta firm conducted said they were very interested in such a card, 26% said they were somewhat interested, while 58% said they did not find the concept appealing (2% said they had no opion).

Tempo Payments Inc. offers banks a decoupled debit card system, and Capital One Financial Corp. is testing multiple decoupled products on its own.

The cards can be linked to accounts at any bank; because there is no need for the issuer to hold the cardholders' checking accounts, many bankers consider the cards a threat to their interchange and fee income.

Synergistics said issuers would likely use strong rewards programs to promote decoupling. Seventy-two percent of consumers who already use debit rewards programs said they saw value in the idea, compared with 54% of those who do not have a debit rewards card.

Banks "should be prepared for competition from decoupled cards if this new product takes hold in the market, and the pressure is definitely on," William H. McCracken, Synergistics' chief executive, said in a press release issued Tuesday. "A significant number of consumers see value in a decoupled debit card, particularly prime target segments such as younger consumers, heavy debit card users, and those who earn rewards through their debit card."

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