Tally logo

Summer FOMO Boosts Spending on Travel, Restaurants Home Improvement and Personal Care

The fear of missing out (FOMO) on experiences continues to push retail spending back to pre-pandemic levels.

June 23, 2021
  • Travel spending soars again for the fifth straight month: Credit card spending on travel-related expenses rose 5.4% month-over-month in May, making up 9.1% of all purchases.

 

  • Dining Out in Droves as Restrictions Lift: Restaurant spending in the form of in-person dining, takeout and delivery apps combined made up 17.6% of all credit card spending in May, rising 3.8% month-over-month.

 

  • Demand for at-home entertainment falls further: Credit card purchases for electronics fell 8.0% month-over-month in May, making up just 10.5% of all spending.

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.

Pent-Up Demand Driving Travel Spending Up

Throughout 2021, travel spending has been climbing each month as vaccination rates increase and restrictions ease across the country. In May, credit card purchases from airlines, hotels and vacation vendors made up 9.1% of total credit card purchases—a 5.4% jump from a month ago.

Compared to last May when the travel industry was struggling, spending is now up 161.6% year-over-year. This is the highest the share of travel spending has been since February 2020 when spending made up 10.1% of total credit card purchases. During the height of the pandemic, the share of travel-related credit card spending hovered between 2% and 6% between April 2020 and December 2020.

Meanwhile, commute-related spending made up 8.0% of total credit card purchases in May. Before the pandemic, the share of spend on this category generally hovered between 8% and 9%. This may increase slightly as more companies reopen their offices.

Restaurant Spending Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Levels

Spending on restaurants in the form of dining out, take out and food delivery made up 17.6% of total credit card spending in May. This is slightly higher than it was two years ago, when the share of spend on restaurants made up 17.5% in May 2019.

Since the start of the year, spending in this category has been steadily climbing as vaccination rates increase and social distancing restrictions ease. In May, restaurant spending rose 3.8% month-over-month from April, and 26.0% quarter-over-quarter from February. Demand for dining out will likely remain strong throughout the summer as more people start to gather again.

Home Improvement Spending Picking Up

Home improvement spending rose 7.8% month-over-month in May, making up 5.3% of total credit card spending. This includes credit card purchases at home improvement or furnishing retailers such Home Depot, Lowes or Crate&Barrel. It also includes transactions with contractors and landscapers.

Though many Americans took on home improvement projects during the pandemic, this most recent increase may be more a reflection of soaring lumber prices, which have since fallen.  In the year before the pandemic, the share of total credit card spending on home improvement never rose above 4%. But since March 2020, spending in this category has never fallen below 4%, peaking at 6.4% in May 2020.

Haircuts and Gym Memberships Making a Comeback

Personal care and fitness spending has largely returned to pre-pandemic levels. For four months straight, spending in this category has made up at least 2.0% of all purchases. This is notable because the share of spend in this category rarely rose above 2.0% throughout most of 2020 as many businesses were forced to shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In May, spending on things like gym memberships fees, fitness class tuition and salon services made up 2.2% of all credit card purchases in May — a 7.8% month-over-month increase from April.

Retail Spending Dips as Electronics Purchases Fall Further

As a spending category, retail purchases continue to make up the largest share of credit card purchases in May (20.4%), but are falling closer to pre-pandemic levels. Two years ago, retail spending made up 20.5% of all credit card purchases in May 2019. Between March and December 2020, spending in this category ranged from 22% to 30%.

Electronics purchases (or the lack thereof) drove most of this category’s decline this month. Spending at retailers such as Best Buy, GameStop and Apple made up 10.5% of all credit card purchases in May, a 8.0% month-over-month decrease from April. Pre-pandemic spending on electronics each month typically hovered between 5% and 8%.

Spending on clothing-specific retailers is still elevated, but dipped slightly in May by 2.0% month-over-month. Overall, spending in this category made up 6.9% of all credit card transactions in May.

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.