Double-digit lift in credit and debit spend this holiday season: Study

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Christmas and Hanukkah are still weeks away, but the season is already looking bright for credit unions.

Data from CO-OP Financial Services reveals credit union members have upped their holiday spending for 2019, based on analysis of credit and debit card transactions between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday – and those transactions are increasingly taking place in the digital world.

CO-OP’s data showed credit card spending up 10.6% compared to last year, for an average of $323 during the five-day period. Spending on debit cards was up 16.8% to hit an average of $264. The company said both figures are in line with its previous predictions of a 19.7% increase in holiday spending.

That growth in debit is in line with recent findings from PSCU, whose 2019 Eye on Payments study revealed that since last year, consumers have flipped their preferred payment method from credit to debit, possibly signaling fears about an economic slowdown in the year ahead.

With consumers increasingly purchasing via digital channels, online spending is also on the rise, CO-OP found. Online credit card purchases this year were 21% higher than those done in-person, the company reported, with online sales averaging $101.19. The dichotomy between in-person and online was even starker for those using debit, with electronic transactions averaging $64.79 each, nearly 50% more than those done in person.

Of the credit transactions CO-OP analyzed, 27.9% took place in electronic environments, up slightly form 27.5% last year. Online and mobile debit purchasing was down from 16.6% last year to 15.7%. Not surprisingly, digital purchases were at their highest on Cyber Monday, though CO-OP noted that visits to brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday were actually down 6.2% this year according to ShopperTrak’s analysis.

CO-OP’s analysis also showed trends in what credit union members are buying this holiday season. Appliance and clothing purchases via credit card are down by 22% and 4.6%, respectively, while car rental and travel also saw double-digit declines. Recreation – such as movie theaters and bowling alleys – saw an increase of nearly 17%.

The Credit Union National Association estimates the average consumer will spend more than $1,000 on "gifts and related expenses" this holiday season.

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