In December 2018, the number of debit cards declined to 958.2 million, losing 34.4 million existing cardholders. At the same time, a total of 44.2 million credit cards were in operation, with the addition of 0.98 million cards, according to the Reserve Bank of India. Between December 2017 and December 2018, India added some 8.7 million credit cards and 115.7 million debit cards.


Card usage spiked during the months of November 2016, December 2016 and January 2017, following the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. The unavailability of cash forced cardholders to use cards. But since February 2017, both debit card and credit card usage has been range-bound. In June 2017, debit cards were down by 86.2 million to 793.83 million, shaving off most of the increase that demonetization had brought in.

The number of transactions using credit cards at POS terminals or swipe machines grew by 28% year-on-year, while it increased by 32.5% for debit cards for the 12 month period ending December 2018. In December 2018, the total number of POS transactions through credit cards was 158.3 million, while the figure for debit cards was 387.5 million.

Total amount transacted through credit cards at POS terminals — which was Rs 54,235 crore in December 2018 — increased by 29.6% in the 12 month period ending December 2018. The amount transacted using POS terminals through debit cards went up by 30.4% during the same time. In December 2018, Rs 53,142 crore were transacted through debit cards at POS terminals.

Note that in the chart above, the amount transacted using debit cards had surpassed credit cards in November 2016, but from January 2018 onwards the amount transacted through credit cards and debit cards was nearly the same. In December 2018, credit card transaction amounts were slightly higher than those of the debit card transaction amounts.

The total amount transacted through credit cards at POS terminals went up by Rs 2,617 crore in December 2018, while the amount transacted through debit cards decreased by Rs 900 crore.

At POS terminals, the average amount transacted per transaction using credit cards — which is an indication of the amount people are willing to spend in one transaction — increased marginally between December 2017 and December 2018. For debit cards, it declined 2% during the same period.