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Personal Care and Fitness Spending Rises As Vaccine Rollout Picks Up

As fewer Americans need at-home entertainment, electronic purchases fall to lowest level since March 2020

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March 23, 2021
  • More Americans Spending to Get Ready to Go Out: Personal care and fitness spending has been increasing since December, jumping 9.8% month-over-month in February 2021 and 8.5% month-over-month in January 2021.

 

  • Travel Spending Continues to Climb: Credit card purchases from airlines, hotels and vacation vendors rose 4.3% month-over-month in February, following a 26.6% month-over-month increase in January.

 

  • Indoor Dining Likely Driving Bump in Spending: Restaurant spending made up 15.8% of total credit card spending in February, which was a 2.3% month-over-month increase from January.

 

  • Electronics Spending Shrinks to Lowest Share Since March 2020: Spending at electronic retailers such as Best Buy, Apple and GameStop fell 9.2% month-over-month in February.

The Tally Credit Card Spending Index tracks spending habits of Americans carrying credit card debt. It ranks the share of dollars spent using credit cards each month at retailers and merchants in several categories, such as entertainment, groceries, personal care and fitness, shopping, restaurants and travel.

Haircuts and Gym Memberships Making a Comeback

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues to pick up, more Americans made investments on themselves (ostensibly to get themselves ready to socialize again). Personal care and fitness spending rose 9.8% month-over-month in February, making up 2.1% of all credit card purchases that month. Examples of personal care and fitness expenses include gym memberships fees, fitness class tuition, and salon services such as haircuts, pedicures and tanning.

Before the pandemic between 2019 and the first half of 2020, spending on personal care and fitness never fell below 2.0%. In April 2020, spending in this category nearly came to a halt when many businesses were forced to shut down to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Since then, spending has largely ebbed and flowed with Covid-19 cases and local shutdown orders.

Travel Bookings Still Hot, While Commute Spending Froze

The pandemic dramatically stunted travel spending in 2020, but Americans seem to be feeling more bullish about traveling this year. Travel spending has been inching higher since the start of the year, rising 4.3% month-over-month in February. This isn’t as dramatic a jump as the 26.6% month-over-month increase in January, but still reflective of a positive trend for the travel industry.

In total, credit card purchases from airlines, hotels and vacation vendors make up 6.8% of total credit card purchases. A year ago, the share of travel-related credit card spending hovered between 2% to 6% between April 2020 and December 2020, Before the pandemic, the share of travel spending generally hovered between 8% and 12% throughout 2019.

Meanwhile, several snowstorms and power outages across the country may have put commute-related spending on ice. Credit card transactions for gas, public transportation and car maintenance fell 5.5% month-over-month in February after rising 11.7% month-over-month in January. This currently makes up 7.0% of total credit card spending, which is still down 10.1% year-over-year from February 2020.

Restaurant Spending Up as More Reopen for Indoor Dining

Restaurant spending made up 15.8% of total credit card spending in February — a good sign for this struggling industry. Before the pandemic, restaurant-related spending was typically above 15.5% each month. The last time restaurant spending passed this threshold was between August 2020 and October 2020. During this time, many restaurants had reopened for outdoor dining and subsequently closed as Covid-19 cases rose and temperatures dropped.

Though trending in the right direction, the actual increase in restaurant spending was small. Credit card transactions for onsite dining, take out and food delivery grew slightly in February, rising 2.3% month-over-month. Compared to a year ago, spending in this category was down only 3.5% from February 2020.

Electronic Purchases Fall Below 13% for First Time Since March 2020

Retail purchases made up more than a fifth of all credit card purchases (22.1%) in February—a slight 3.5% month-over-month decrease from January. This marks the second straight monthly decline in purchases made at retailers, such as Amazon, Target, Walmart and Macy’s.

Most of the spending in this category was on electronics. Purchases at retailers such as Best Buy, GameStop and Apple made up 12.9% of all credit card purchases in February. However, this was the lowest share of spend for electronics since March 2020. Over the last two months, spending in this category has been on a sharp decline: falling 9.2% month-over-month in February and 22.7% month-over-month in January. This is likely caused by the decrease in demand for at-home entertainment as more people get the Covid-19 vaccine; thereby becoming less dependent on electronics for something to do.

This is having the opposite effect on clothing purchases. Making up 6.2% of total credit card spending in February, spending at clothing retailers rose 6.7% month-over-month from January. As more people get the Covid-19 vaccine, more Americans are likely buying clothes in anticipation of socializing and traveling again.

Methodology

The Tally Credit Card Spending Index ranks the share of purchases made each month in several categories: entertainment, groceries, home improvement, personal care and fitness, pets, restaurants, shopping (includes electronics and clothing), travel, transportation and other. The “other” category includes unspecified transactions and categories that are too small to be ranked separately.

Each monthly index is based on a statistically significant sampling of approximately 200,000 anonymized credit card transactions in a given month made by Tally members, many of whom carry credit card debt. The index has been tracking credit card transactions since January 2019. All historical transaction data has been normalized to the most current month.

Share of the spend measures the proportion of total dollars spent in each category relative to total credit card expenses within a month. Percentage changes are calculated using the total dollar amount spent in each category on a month-over-month, quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year basis.