Just how much are Americans spending on airfare, groceries, restaurant meals and other common categories that earn cash back, points and miles? Here’s the latest research on consumer spending.
Spending on rewards cards continues to grow, and consumers use rewards cards for more than half of their purchases. Cash back is by far the favorite reward, followed by travel.
The top rewards cards offer at least 1% cash back or one point or mile per dollar spent, but cards typically offer more in certain categories.
For example, some cash back cards offer as much as 5% cash back in rotating categories, such as gas stations, drugstores, home improvement stores, restaurants and supermarkets.
And some travel credit cards offer 2 to 5 points per dollar spent on airfare, hotel stays or ride-sharing services. Some small business credit cards offer extra rewards for paying your cable, cellphone or internet bill.
So just how much are Americans spending on these categories that credit cards so richly reward? Read on for an overview of current consumer spending statistics.
See related: Best flat rate cash back cards
Grocery and restaurant spending
A CreditCards.com analysis of BLS data from 22 large metropolitan areas shows consumers in Seattle pay the most for groceries of any major U.S. city: $6,195 a year per household.1 On average, American households spend $4,464 per year per on groceries2, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The cost to fill up your grocery cart varies quite a bit by city.
Many Americans pull out a rewards card to pay for everything from grabbing coffee on the way to work to dining at restaurants. The average U.S. household spends $3,459 a year eating away from home2, according to BLS statistics. The category includes buffet meals, fast food, takeout, school lunches for kids and snacks from vending machines.3
The average household also spends $583 a year on alcoholic beverages at home and at restaurants2, according to BLS data.
See related: Best credit cards for grocery shopping
U.S. consumers spend an average of $3,226 a year per household on entertainment2, according to the BLS. This spending category includes $766 in admission fees and tickets to concerts, plays, movies, and sporting events.
It also counts the purchase of electronics, toys and equipment for hobbies, such as bicycles, cameras, camping gear, fishing rods and video games. And though you may argue it’s no fun to potty train a new puppy or take a cranky cat to the vet, pet expenses ($662 a year on average) also are counted as part of the entertainment category.3
Entertainment spending also includes streaming services like Netflix and Spotify. More than 2 in 3 Americans (69%) pay for at least one streaming video service12, according to the Digital Media Trends Survey by Deloitte.
The average streaming video subscriber pays $22 a month13, which adds up to $264 a year, for streaming services, according to a 2019 survey by market advisory firm KPMG.
If you hate doing crunches at 6 a.m., you may be surprised to learn that gyms and fitness clubs also fit into the entertainment category, according to the BLS.
One in five Americans (20.8%) belongs to at least one health club or exercise studio14, according to the most recent data from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). There are 62.5 million health club members who spend $32.3 billion a year at health clubs. That’s an average of $515 a year or just under $43 a month per member.
See related: Best credit cards for entertainment spending
The average U.S. household spends $818 per year on public and other transportation2, according to the BLS. These costs vary widely by city, from a high of $2,099 a year in Washington, D.C. and $1,815 in New York City to a low of $459 in Tampa, Florida.1 This total includes taxis and ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.3
The average U.S. household also spends $2,109 a year on gas2 according to the data from the BLS. Los Angeles residents spend more on gas than those in any other major U.S. metropolitan area, at $2,706 a year per household. New Yorkers spend the least at $1,514 per household.1
U.S. travelers spent $972 billion on domestic travel in 20194, according to the 2019 U.S. Travel & Tourism Overview from the U.S. Travel Association. This number includes airfare, food service and lodging. U.S. hotels had $200 billion in bookings in 20195, according to the market research firm IBISWorld.
Meanwhile, U.S. airlines brought in over $185 billion in revenue in 20196, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. This revenue includes airfare, cargo and baggage and other fees. And the U.S. car rental market revenue reached $45 billion in revenue in 20197, according to IBISWorld.
What about international trips? Tourists from the U.S. spent $144 billion on international travel in 20188, according to a 2019 report from the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Divide that by the total 93 million travelers who leave the U.S. each year9, and that’s a little over $1,500 a year per traveler in international travel spending.
The average household spends $4,049 on utilities, fuels and public services, according to the BLS.2
The U.S. average electric bill is almost $118 a month10, which works out to about $1,412 a year, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The highest monthly bill by state was in Hawaii at over $16810 a month, or over $2,016 a year. U.S. households also pay an annual average of $614 for water service and $410 for natural gas2, according to the BLS.
The average U.S. household spends $1,188 a year on cellphone service2, which works out to $99 a month.
See related: Credit card use and availability statistics
The market share for online shopping continues to grow, and non-store sales hit over $778 billion in 201911, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly retail trade report for December 2019. As a point of comparison, sales for brick-and-mortar general merchandise stores, which include department and warehouse stores, came in lower at a little over $713 billion.
The average U.S. household spends a yearly average of $768 on personal care products and services, and $172 on medical supplies, according to the BLS.2 Some, but not all of this spending, takes place at drugstores.
Cardholders also often pull out their cards to pay for home improvement and furnishings. The average U.S. household spends $2,025 a year on home furniture and equipment2, according to BLS data.
And finally, many Americans love the bargains that can be found by stocking up on household goods in bulk. They spend $493 billion at warehouse clubs and supercenters, according to market research firm IBISWorld.15 This category includes Costco, Sam’s Club and Walmart.
It’s no surprise that Americans love their rewards cards. If you’re going to spend tens of thousands of dollars a year, it makes sense to leverage that spending by racking up rewards, or putting some of that money back in your pocket.
- CreditCards.com: “How Americans spend their money,” by Ted Rossman, January 2020
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2018 Consumer Expenditure Survey, September 2019
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditures Survey Glossary
- U.S. Travel Association: Travel and Tourism Overview (2018), updated June 2019
- IBISWorld: Hotels & Motels in the U.S. Market Research Report, December 2019
- U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics: Operating Revenue All U.S. Carriers, 2019
- IBISWorld: Car Rental Industry in the U.S. Market Research Report, July 2019
- United Nations: World Tourism Organization International Tourism Highlights 2019 Edition, July 2019
- U.S. Department of Commerce: U.S. Citizen Outbound Travel Up Six Percent in 2018, April 2019
- U.S. Energy Information Administration: 2018 Average Monthly Bill Residential
- U.S. Census Bureau: Advance Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services, December 2019
- Deloitte Insights: Digital media trends survey, March 2019
- KPMG: How consumers choose video streaming services, March 2019
- International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association: Latest IHRSA Data: Over 6B Visits to 39,570 Gyms in 2018, March 2019
- IBISWorld: Warehouse Clubs and Supercenters Industry in the U.S. Market Research Report, December 2019