January spending trends: Ready to launch

CO-OP Payments Trends Report (Spending Data from January 1-31)

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA (February 16, 2022) — With 2021 in the rear-view mirror and the holiday shopping season behind them, consumers reset their spending behaviors for the new year ahead. Although the rapid rise in omicron cases – which hit a peak in mid-January – raised concerns and dampened spending, the variant’s just-as-rapid fall is generating optimism for a return to normal spending patterns over the coming months in key industries (like travel) that have yet to bounce back.

On the economic front, mostly positive news has greeted the new year. According to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. economy grew by 5.7% in 2021, a strong rebound from 2020 and the highest rate of growth since 1984. The good news continued in January, with surprisingly strong job growth of 467,000 in nonfarm payrolls for the month. Unemployment stayed roughly unchanged at 4.0%.

Of course, the flip side of this coin is inflation, and January saw a higher-than-expected surge in consumer prices, raising the annual inflation rate to 7.5%, the highest in four decades. The Fed has signaled it will begin raising rates in March to counteract these inflationary pressures.

CO-OP’s member credit union payment portfolio data showed month-over-month declines across most major merchant categories in both debit and credit. This was expected, and typical for the post-holiday period. In credit, double-digit decreases in count and amount were seen in the Amazon/Bookstores, Grocery, Retail, Computers, Office, Home Improvement and Sports/Recreation categories. Only Education and Camping saw increases over December.

In debit, the story was much the same, with the notable exceptions of the Lodging, Medical and Travel categories, all of which showed double-digit growth in amount.

Here are some of the key spending trends the CO-OP SmartGrowth Consulting Team are currently watching:


#1: Omicron Had A Sharp, But Temporary Impact

According to the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 cases hit their peak on January 14. Since then, the 7-day moving average of daily cases has dropped precipitously.

The peak in cases coincided with the post-holiday shopping period, which traditionally shows much lower spending volumes than seen in the fourth quarter of the year. This year was no different, with month over month counts in the Retail category dropping by 35% in both debit and credit in January.

#2: Credit Has Outpaced Debit For the Past Year

 Looking back to January 2021, it is remarkable how strongly credit has rebounded across most major spending categories.

For example, Dining & Entertainment was up by 35% in count and 45% in amount in January 2022 as compared with January 2021. Gas was up by 103% and 126%, respectively. Grocery increased by 85% and 42%, and Retail by 4% in count and 44% in amount.

The story for debit is a bit different. Although Dining & Entertainment was up by 6% in count and 23% in amount, and Gas grew by 22% in amount, it was actually down year over year in several categories including Grocery, Retail and Computers.

“Overall, if you look at year over year in credit, we are much better off now than we were last January before vaccines were readily available, in spite of the omicron variant,” said John Patton, CO-OP Senior Payments Advisor.

#3: Consumer Spending Is Poised For A Rebound

 The biggest takeaway from January data is that despite the pause triggered by the omicron variant, consumers are gearing up to spend again. Federal and state officials have been refocusing the narrative from “pandemic” to “endemic,” with an underlying message that it is time for society to begin living with the virus. Consumers, meanwhile, are energized to get back to dining out, attending events and returning to “normalcy.”

“The message is that consumers are ready to go and ready to spend again,” said Patton. “Unemployment is low, and consumers still have a lot of stimulus funds in their checking accounts. Once this latest variant recedes, we’re looking at a big resurgence later in the spring.”


Month-Over-Month Category-Level Spending (Comparing January 2022 to December 2021)

Please note that the category spending below reflects month-over-month comparisons (rather than year-over-year) – i.e., compares January 2022 with December 2021, rather than January 2022 to January 2021.


Credit Debit
Count Amount Interchange Count Amount Interchange
Category Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change
Amazon/Bookstores -27% -36% -33% -24% -23% -27%
Digital Goods -3% -1% -3% -4% -1% -3%
Dining and Entertainment -7% -9% -10% -6% 6% -5%
Education 17% 41% 34% 12% 39% 22%
Gas -8% -8% -8% -7% 3% -7%
Grocery -12% -19% -19% -11% -8% -12%
Lodging -5% -1% 0% 1% 30% 7%
Medical -6% -4% -4% -5% 11% -3%
Retail -35% -42% -41% -35% -31% -39%
Travel -13% -4% -4% -11% 12% -6%
Computers -22% -31% -30% -28% -29% -32%
Office -13% -12% -11% -16% -15% -19%
Campers & Camping 1% 8% 10% -1% 10% 3%
Home Improvement -16% -16% -15% -15% -4% -16%
Sport/Recreation -39% -40% -40% -38% -26% -40%


More information on the CO-OP SmartGrowth Consulting Team can be found here.


About CO-OP Financial Services

CO-OP Financial Services is a payments and financial technology company whose mission is ensuring the success of the credit union movement. CO-OP payments solutions, engagement services and strategic counsel help credit unions optimize member experiences to consistently provide seamless, personalized multi-channel offerings, while delivering secure, sophisticated fraud mitigation service. For more information, visit


Bill Prichard, APR
Director, Public Relations
CO-OP Financial Services
(909) 532-9416

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