Fed data: We're using credit cards for smaller purchases

Sabrina Karl
Personal Finance Writer
Data whiz and visual storyteller


Americans are whipping out their credit cards more often than ever before, and because the average dollar amount per credit card transaction is shrinking, it appears consumers are willing to charge smaller and smaller purchases.

The findings come from the latest release of payments data from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, which found that credit card payments grew 10.2 percent in number from 2015 to 2016. That’s up from an annual growth rate of 8.1 percent seen from 2012 to 2015.

But the dollar amount charged to credit cards rose only 6.3 percent in 2016. That’s slower than the 6.6 percent annual gain seen between 2012 and 2015.

All of this combines to bring the average credit card transaction down to about $87, after averaging close to $95 in 2012. For in-person charges, the average has dropped from $68 to $58 per transaction in the same time, while the average remote credit card charge has declined from $170 to $151.

The Fed found that while credit card usage is experiencing accelerated growth, the same is not true across the board for plastic. Compared to 10 percent growth for credit cards, the number of debit card transactions grew only 6 percent from 2015 to 2016, and that’s down from 7.2 percent growth from 2012 to 2015.

The Federal Reserve released its installment of 2016 payments data – drawn from surveys of depository and financial institutions, card networks and processers, and private label card issuers – Dec. 21.

We're using credit cards for smaller purchases

See related: Poll: Pay with cash or card for $5 purchase?, More infographics

To use the graphic on your site, use the following code:

<center><a href="http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/infographic-credit-cards-smaller-purchases.php"><img alt="CreditCards.com Infographic: We're using credit cards for smaller purchases" border="0" src="http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/images/infographic-credit-cards-smaller-purchases.png" /></a> </center>

Join the discussion
We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.

Weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, advice, articles and tips delivered to your inbox. It's FREE.

Updated: 03-22-2019