If it can be seen as a proxy of consumer demand, then a cursory review of Google Analytics presents a clear picture of the dynamics of change in payment choice.
The first chart shows domestic Google search traffic for “prepaid debit card” from 2004 to today. The numbers are given on a relative scale of 1 to 100, with the highest number representing the point where search volume reached its maximum.
Search volume peaked last month (it may be higher now) at a rate that was more than five times its level in 2004. Demand seems to peak every year in January and then again in mid-summer. Cities where the highest numbers of search requests originate: Tampa, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas.
Here is the chart for “free checking.”
Google search traffic for free checking peaked in September 2008. That was an interesting moment in the financial history of our country. At this point, fewer people (on an absolute basis) find it worthwhile to search for “free checking” than at any point in the last decade.
This last chart shows the search volume for “mobile banking.”
The curve for “prepaid debit card” and for “mobile banking” is steeper in the United States than it is worldwide. With “free checking,” the rise and fall of both are very similar.