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Payment trends stabilize before uncertain autumn

CO-OP Financial Services reports on consumer credit and debit spending during August

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA (September 15, 2020) — The waning days of summer saw a continuation of the credit and debit trends of recent months. Shifts in consumer behavior were comparatively modest between July and August, as consumers solidified their purchasing routines for the post-COVID “new normal.” Yet, as the leaves begin to turn caution signs are ahead, signaling that much can change in the coming months.

The latest analysis by the CO-OP SmartGrowth Team of CO-OP Credit and Debit portfolio data shows that debit regained its momentum in August, with the number of transactions down just 3% year-over-year. Debit transaction amounts were up 10%, driving a strong net interchange increase of 12%.

Credit posted a similar story in August, with transaction counts up by 4%, transaction amounts up 11% and interchange up by 7% year-over-year.

Here are the category-level spending trends we are seeing for the month of August (data comparing August 1-31, 2020, with August 1-31, 2019):

Online Bookstores (Amazon)

Transaction Volume (#):
Credit: Up 49%. Debit: Up 20%.
Transaction Amount ($):
Credit: Up 50%. Debit: Up 19%.

Airline Travel

Transaction Volume (#):
Credit: Down 74%. Debit: Down 67%.
Transaction Amount ($):
Credit: Down 74%. Debit: Down 64%.

Car Rentals

Transaction Volume (#):
Credit: Down 45%. Debit: Up 20%.
Transaction Amount ($):
Credit: Down 47%. Debit: Down 3%.

Political Organizations

Transaction Volume (#):
Credit: Up 199%. Debit: Up 174%.
Transaction Amount ($):
Credit: Up 350%. Debit: Up 302%.

Hardware Stores

Transaction Volume (#):
Credit: Up 34%. Debit: Up 25%.
Transaction Amount ($):
Credit: Up 38%. Debit: Up 39%.

Discount Stores

Transaction Volume (#):
Credit: Up 32%. Debit: Up 12%.
Transaction Amount ($):
Credit: Up 41%. Debit: Up 25%.

Lifts across several essential and popular merchant categories contributed to this positive trend, including hardware stores, grocery stores and discount stores.

Still, travel and entertainment continued to lag, with airline volume off by 74%, and car rentals off by 47% in credit card transaction count year-over-year. Despite a gradual reopening and the long-awaited release of a handful of summer blockbusters, movie theaters continued their streak of historically low transaction volume, suffering a 93% drop in both credit and debit year-over-year.

Curious lifts were seen in niche merchant categories like political organizations – reflecting the impending November presidential election – and of all things … snowmobiles! In fact, recreation-related purchases have enjoyed strong growth throughout the summer, perhaps reflecting the public’s desire to get outdoors and escape pandemic-related cabin fever.

Tax preparation services were also up in August, although not by the triple-digit year-over-year increases seen in June and July, owing to the federal government’s postponed Tax Day deadline.

Prepare for a Season of Volatility Around the Corner

The curtain is likely falling on this period of relative calm, however. With the ending of the original $600 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program in July, and the fact that the $1,200 pandemic checks have largely been received and spent, struggling consumers are already facing the prospect of having less cash on hand available. With the immediate prospects of a new government stimulus package unlikely, credit unions can expect a segment of their members to suffer from reduced or lost wages. This will lead them to begin shifting away from debit and toward credit, as they are forced to draw on credit lines to cover regular monthly bills and essential expenses.

The move to contactless payments in the U.S. represents another long-term trend that has accelerated during the crisis. Even prior to COVID-19, U.S. consumers were finally getting comfortable with tap to pay at the point of sale. According to Mercator, 25% had tried contactless in some form, a figure roughly split among those that have tried it via a mobile app, contactless card, or both.

CO-OP will continue to monitor trends across its Credit and Debit portfolio and provide solutions to ensure credit unions have what they need to serve their members. For more information on how CO-OP can support credit unions throughout COVID-19, please visit www.co-opfs.org/covid19.


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 www.co-opfs.org.

Contacts

Bill Prichard
APR, Director, Public Relations
(909) 532-9416 | Bill.prichard@coop.org

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