Sign of the times: Americans increasingly opt for debit cards

Battered by surging unemployment and plunging home values, Americans are keeping their credits cards in their wallets and using debit cards instead, according to data released by Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA).

"Consumers clearly prefer debit," says Christopher Brendler, an analyst with Stifel Nicholaus in Baltimore who follows both companies. And credit's comeback could be a long way off. "It's going to be a while, and who knows if ever comes back," Brendler adds.