2021 back-to-school credit and debit card spending up

The 2021 holiday season may have the the strongest sales on record.

One of the strongest categories following holiday spend, the 2021 back-to-school shopping period was forecasted to increase by 7.5% compared to 2020, according to the National Retail Federation. As many families began planning for their students’ return to in-person classes following virtual learning last year, PSCU measured this year’s impact of back-to-school purchases in the September 2021 edition of our monthly PSCU Payments Index. In the survey, the credit union service organization examined a relevant group of 17 merchant categories, along with results for Amazon, Target and Walmart, for a same-store population of credit unions to see if spending was in line with predictions.

The Findings

Overall, purchases in these merchant categories were up for August 2021 compared to August 2020. Credit purchases (+18%) were up in select back-to-school purchasing-related categories at a greater rate than debit purchases (+12%). The uptick can be attributed to multiple factors, including the challenging credit activity/growth environment in 2020 as debit activity experienced substantial growth.


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