Aussie credit card spending habits have changed, Citi data shows

woman standing in grocery aisle looking at her phone working out her credit card spend budget for eating at home

All Australian states have now been released from COVID lockdown, but have consumer habits bounced back to normal? According to Citi data, although we are technically living in a post-lockdown world, our spending patterns may have been permanently changed.

The spending recovery

As vaccination rates reach target levels and Aussies are returning to the high street, debit and credit card spending for October is estimated to be 3% higher than September - which already saw a notable increase. In September, spending was estimated to be 5.6% higher than August, with a daily average spend increase of 9%.

"The credit card industry continues its path to recovery with spending increasing month on month," said Choong Yu Lum, head of credit cards at Citi Australia.

No more panic buying

As shoppers relax and move away from panic buying, there has been a decrease in the proportion of spend on supermarkets and household goods. Although these categories are still the highest ranking, there is a 3.2% difference between the 10.3% supermarket spend in September and the 13.5% high in April.

“Looking at the amount of money spent at Supermarkets, spend peaked in March and was 30% higher than spend figures we are seeing today," Lum said.

Citi data shows that, while beginning to recalibrate to post-lockdown, consumer card spending will likely not fully return to pre-covid patterns anytime soon.

Many people are still not completely comfortable dining out or travelling at the same rate they did pre-COVID. Most Australians are also still working remotely at least part of the week, so people are not grabbing lunch at CBD food courts and are instead spending that money at their local grocery store.

"As consumers adapt to a new lifestyle, we anticipate supermarkets and household goods to retain the top billing in the near-term," said Lum.

Significant changes in reward points spending

Another possible long-term impact of COVID-19 on shopping habits is the change in how people redeem their credit card reward points.

2021 spend of rewards points

 Category% share of spend
1. E-Vouchers39.06%
2. Gift Cards24.72%
3. Select and credit (selecting to use rewards point for a credit card purchase)12.96%

"Rewards spend has changed significantly due to Covid-19. If we look back to research we conducted in 2019, over half of loyalty members stated they prefer to receive travel related rewards. Most consumers who normally save points for travel have not been able to use them, and so today no travel benefits have made our top three spend categories," Lum added.

"In addition, we can assume that customers are shifting towards redemption options that allow them to stretch their dollar more in this environment of economic uncertainty. Vouchers, gift cards and select and credit are all options that allow consumers to be smart with their money and use their rewards points to make a purchase they would have made anyway, that little bit more affordable."

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