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Canadians Open Prepaid Accounts at Higher Rate than Debit or Credit 



Canadian Prepaid Market Set to Surpass CA$19 billion by 2028 as Canadians seek flexible, digital-first payment options 


New research from the Canadian Prepaid Providers Organization (CPPO)and Datos Insights reveals that the Canadian open-loop prepaid card market continues to see strong growth. The industry is poised to reach CA$19 billion in annual loads by 2028.  

 

Growth in the industry is evident as total loads on all Canadian prepaid card accounts surged from an estimated CA$10.8 billion in 2021 to approximately CA$11.4 billion in 2023, reflecting a 5% increase. Canada had approximately 54 million open prepaid accounts by year-end 2021, growing to about 63 million by year-end 2023. 

 

Prepaid programs in Canada are trendsetters in the greater financial services sectors. In 2023, consumer general purpose reloadable (GPR) programs accounted for 44% of all Canadian prepaid account loads, totaling approximately CA$5.0 billion, a 21% increase from 2022. Consumer GPR card programs and providers have introduced digital-first banking alternatives with simple fee models, child/teen banking, instant access to pay, along with savings, budgeting and credit-building features. These innovations have attracted consumer attention, making these services mainstream with prepaid technology driving the change. 

 

“Prepaid continues to be the critical platform for innovation for many significant improvements in payments convenience, value and inclusivity for consumers, SMBs and governments,” said CPPO Executive Director Jennifer Tramontana. “The research has confirmed the trends we have seen unfold over the past three years — the desire for digital payment options that are fast, flexible, affordable and accessible. Prepaid as a technology platform powers these types of financial experiences.” 

 

Consumer preferences are also shifting, with more people opening new BNPL (46%) and prepaid accounts (27%) in the last 12 months compared to new debit (21%) or credit card (14%) products. This trend highlights the stronger growth rates of prepaid products compared to credit and debit cards. The growth of prepaid in Canada is driven by various factors, including the development of instant issuance capabilities that has helped to expand prepaid accounts into a growing market segment. Commercial use cases, in particular, hold significant scope for product innovation in the near term. 

 

“The continued innovation from the diverse and expanding prepaid providers in Canada is fueling the industry’s growth. Prepaid supports digital-first payment programs enabling high growth segments, such as the gig worker economy, expense management, BNPL, digital disbursements, and instant digital issuance,” said Gilles Ubaghs, Strategic Advisor at Datos Insights. “The prepaid functionality is often secondary to the other features highlighted in these use cases, but prepaid technology remains the reliable, secure payment method powering these consumer and business-friendly digital payments.” 

previous CPPO study also revealed a notable "digital divide," with younger and middle-aged Canadians (under age 55) and BIPOC individuals embracing digital financial services at higher rates than those 55 and above. Despite age-related differences in payment method awareness and use, digital and mobile payment options are gaining traction. This research echoes that while this growth happening in the prepaid industry will come from all generations, younger consumers will be the primary drivers. 

Other key findings from the market research include: 

  • Given GPR cards’ reloadability and use cases, consumer GPR cards have the highest average annual amount loaded per prepaid card account, at approximately CA$2,241 in 2023.  

  • The average load per open Canadian prepaid card account grew steadily from CA$164 in 2021 to CA$181 in 2023. 

  • Year-on-year comparisons show that the total load values from Q4 2022 to Q4 2023 increased by 9.6%, indicating continued strong growth. 

  • The holiday season drives substantial volume on prepaid cards, with loads increasing by 20% between Q3 2023 and Q4 2023.   

 

The full research report is available only to CPPO members. A public version of the research is available here. For more information about joining the CPPO, visit cppo.ca. 

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