Credit Card Spending Inflated for Commuting and Eating Out
Revenge Spending Back for Personal Care and Fitness, But Not for Retail
March 15, 2022
As inflation continues to climb to new highs, Americans are hitting their spending limits. Credit card spending fell month-over-month in February across nearly all categories — except for personal care and fitness (up 30.4%) and restaurants (up 3.8%), according to the latest Tally Credit Card Spending Index.
This pullback in spending however is likely driven by higher prices, versus a change in consumer interest. Compared to a year ago, spending rose for:
Groceries (up 7.1%)
Pets (up 8.2%)
Travel (up 28.3%)
Commute (up 37.5%)
Restaurants (up 50.0%)
Personal care and fitness (up 71.2%)
Meanwhile, spending fell year-over-year for:
Entertainment (down 1.7%)
Retail (down 6.1%)
Home improvement (down 15.1%)
Wi-Fi and internet service (down 17.0%)
Gas prices likely driving commute spending spike
The impact of gas prices hitting new highs is becoming apparent. Americans are likely buying less gas, as indicated by the 0.9% month-over-month decrease in commute-related spending in February. However, they are paying much more for it. As a share of spending, credit card spending on gas, car maintenance and public transportation made up 8.5% of all credit card expenses in February. Compared to a year ago, commute spending rose 37.5% from a year ago.
Before the pandemic, commute-related purchases typically made up more than 8% of credit card expenses. Spending fell significantly in 2020 when many companies switched to remote work. Given that there were notable calls to return to the office in February, the recent increase in commute spending is likely driven by rising costs.
America's new top credit card expense: dining out
For the first time since 2019, spending on restaurants made up the largest share of credit card purchases — overtaking retail spending. In February, spending on in-restaurant dining, delivery and take out made up 20.9% of all credit card purchases in February — up 50% from a year ago. Restaurant spending has now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, which never exceeded 18% in 2019.
By comparison, spending on retail made up 18.3% of all credit card purchases in February — down 6.1% from a year ago. This was largely driven by a notable decrease in electronic purchases (down 15.9% year-over-year) and clothing purchases (down 28.9% year-over-year).
One common factor is likely causing this shift: inflation. Dining out has become more expensive as the cost of food continues to rise. Likewise, rising costs have muted consumer demand for retail purchases, namely electronics and clothing, along with other goods and services in other categories, such as home improvement, entertainment and travel.
Self-care spending surges again
Instead of avenging what they lost in 2020 with “revenge spending” on clothing, Americans appear to be making a big investment in their overall health and well being. Personal care and fitness spending rose again in February, increasing 30.4% month-over-month and 71.2% year-over-year. For the first time since 2019, spending on gym members, fitness classes, salon visits and other personal care services made up 3.1% of all credit card expenses. Even before the pandemic, spending in this category never exceeded 3% in 2019.
Tracking the spending habits of Americans carrying credit card debt since January 2019, the Tally Credit Card Spending Index ranks the share of dollars spent using credit cards each month at retailers and merchants in categories, including entertainment, groceries, personal care and fitness, shopping, restaurants and travel.
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.