Dangerous Credit Card Trend
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Consumers reverted from their habits of buying holiday gifts with cash or debit cards and instead started accruing more debt on their credit cards this past season.
Instead of sticking with their previous intentions of using cash or debit only, shoppers found themselves faltering on plans to reduce their credit card spending.
In the November, 69.7% of Americans reported that they planned to use cash for holiday spending, according to SaveUp, a San Francisco-based online financial rewards program.
Despite their well-intentioned goals, consumers wound up funding the 2013 holiday with debt and entered the New Year with larger bills. Consumers showed more restraint during the 2012 holiday season when they relied on using cash and savings to pay for their holiday purchases.
"Ultimately, they were not able to fulfill their goals," said Cameron Thompson, director of marketing for SaveUp. "It was disappointing. Now as credit becomes more accessible to the average consumer, it is easier to resort back to their old habits of using their credit cards and in some cases a line of credit."
During the 2012 holiday season, Americans withdrew an average of nearly $700 from savings accounts and those who had a money market account withdrew an average of $1,000 to cover the costs of holiday spending, said SaveUp.
Consumer behavior changed drastically during the 2013 holiday season, said Thompson. The average American racked up over $350 of debt on credit cards this holiday season while in 2012 Americans were actually paying down credit card debt during the holidays.
"The most important thing is financial literacy and self-control," he said. "Financial literacy in the U.S. is not where it needs to be. The average American knows they need to live within their means, but having the self-control to do is that a different story. We are trying to instill that in our customers setting different goals and thresholds so they can live within their means and reach their ultimate goals for retirement while being able to live within their means."
Every state across the nation generated stronger year-over-year growth for holiday spending in 2013, said Krish Mantripragada, SVP of information and analytics for First Data, the Atlanta-based payments transactions company. Consumers spent more money because their personal income also grew, he said.
"As consumers were more confident and enjoyed stronger income growth in 2013 than in 2012, shoppers felt encouraged to increase their spending this holiday season," Mantripragada said. "Merchants also made it easier for shoppers by offering values including price-matching, free shipping guarantees and expanded store hours."
First Data also reported that consumers continued to favor using credit over debit for holiday shopping. As a percentage of all retail card spending, the credit card share over Thanksgiving weekend rose to 45% in 2013 versus 40% in 2012. In December, spending growth of 7.8% on credit outpaced debit growth of 4.3% where the pin was used and 4.0% where signatures were used.