October 14, 2021
Internet services spending surges. Expenses related to Wi-Fi and cell services jumped up 14.3% month-over-month in September. While this double-digit growth was atypical of pre-pandemic purchase trends in this category, the month of September has typically seen gains month-over-month aligned with Apple’s annual iPhone event.
Personal care and fitness spending bounce back. Credit card spending on personal care and fitness, such as haircuts and gym memberships, rose 9.7% month-over-month in September. Likely driven by back-to-school salon trips and broader reopening of gyms and workout studios, spending in this category made up 2.2% of all September credit purchases.
Restaurant spending remains strong. Growth in this category was on purchases from popular takeout and delivery apps such as DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats, where spending rose 5.4% month-over-month in September. Cooler weather and ongoing concerns with the Delta variant may have inspired many Americans to stay close to home and order in.
The Tally Credit Card Spending Index has been tracking the spending habits of Americans carrying credit card debt since January 2019. It 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.
Almost like clockwork, Apple announces a new iPhone every September. The only deviation was in 2020 when the iPhone 12 announcement was shifted to October due to pandemic-related production delays. This year saw a return to “tradition” with the announcement of the iPhone 13 on September 16, followed by a wave of pre-orders.
In September, these pre-orders likely drove the notable 14.3% month-over-month and 13.2% quarter-over-quarter spike in credit card purchases on Wi-Fi and cell service. Another possible driver for this increase was the return to school. With older children out and about once more, many parents likely saw a need to update their existing phone plans or perhaps purchase new devices.
The share of total credit card spending in this category rose to 2.4% in September from a low of 2.1% in June. Wi-Fi and cell service as a share of spending had been waning for months as more people returned to the office and spent less time at home.
The month of September has typically seen gains month-over-month for Wi-Fi and cell services with spend up 4.3% and 3.5% month-over-month in September 2020 and September 2019, respectively. This is likely due to the seasonality surrounding back-to-school and Apple’s annual iPhone-centric event, often driving pre-order sales and device upgrades.
This year as well, many Americans expected to return to the office in September but with most reopenings postponed, expanded broadband needs at home and cell data plans may have become a priority expense again.
For eight months straight, spending in this category has made up at least 2.0% of all purchases, largely returning to pre-pandemic levels. This is particularly significant because the share of spend for personal care and fitness rarely hit 2.0% throughout most of 2020 as many businesses shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Back-to-school salon trips, more comfortability in gym settings, as well as a return to organized sports for students were likely drivers of a 9.2% month-over-month increase in September. Spending in this category made up 2.2% of all September credit purchases, a trend that may hold as Americans seek paths to normalcy in a new normal and return to routines such as regular haircuts, fitness classes and spa days.
Demand for dining out, take out and food delivery exceeded pre-pandemic levels in September. Making up 17.9% of total credit card spending, this far exceeded the share of spend in all of 2019. This is likely driven by a shift away from travel spending, which fell 4.7% month-over-month in September. Since the beginning of the year, spending in the restaurant category has steadily climbed as cities reopened, social distancing restrictions eased up and vaccination rates increased.
Falling temperatures and continued concerns with the Delta variant likely boosted growth in this category with purchases from popular takeout and delivery apps such as DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats increasing credit card spend by 5.4% month-over-month in September. Growth in this category is likely to continue as the weather grows colder and more Americans choose to stay home.
For the fourth straight month, spending in this category has exceeded 5% since February 2020. Entertainment purchases made up 5.4% of all credit card spending in September. Throughout most of the pandemic, spending in the entertainment category hovered between 3% and 4%.
With vaccination rates increasing and formal event policies becoming the norm, this may have driven Americans to purchase tickets for concerts, sporting events and live shows as they became available again. Growth in this category was on purchases from well-known ticket vendors like SeatGeek, Ticketmaster and Vivid Seats, where spending rose 7.1% month-over-month in September.
As Delta variant concerns remain and the holidays draw near, whether this trend continues will largely depend on how the pandemic continues to unfold and if live events get postponed or limited in size once more.
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.