We're opting for debit over credit when we swipe

debit card swipe
debit card swipe

A research firm predicts that credit card use could fall to 45% of all transactions this year if current trends continue. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, our use of credit cards has been dropping steadily; we used credit cards for 56% of all transactions last year, which was a steep drop from the 87% of all transactions in 2007, when our obsession with plastic peaked.

"The main reason I would say is the recession, because it really affected consumer spending behavior and habits," Beth Robertson, director of payments research at Javelin, told WalletPop in a phone interview. "The savings rate went up, consumption overall went down and people shifted to methods that helped them more carefully monitor their expenditures."

What's picking up the slack? Growing use of debit cards plays a big role. This is better for consumers, since debit cards generally don't let you spend what you don't have (watch out for those overdraft "protection" programs, though!). Also growing in popularity are the use of gift cards and prepaid cards, particularly the reloadable kind that can act as a kind of de facto bank account for Americans without traditional banking relationships. Robertson calls these prepaid offerings an "emerging category of payment."