Research and Statistics

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


We pull out the credit card more often, and the average dollar amount per credit card transaction is shrinking

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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.

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

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

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