Holiday Shoppers Are Cutting Back on Credit Card Use When the Great Recession hit, many debt-laden Americans decided to put their free-spending ways on hold, resulting in more household saving, reduced debt and less reliance on credit cards. In recent weeks, however, as retail sales perked up in advance of December's holidays, some experts began wondering if consumers were once again using plastic to splurge.

That doesn't seem to be the case. Though sales are upbeat this year, credit cards are playing a smaller role in purchases, according to survey results released Monday by Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The poll showed that more than half of U.S. adults -- 56% -- aren't using their credit cards at all to make holiday purchases this year. Another 26% said they're using credit cards to buy some gifts, while only 18% said they're either charging most or all of their presents.

The poll results show that income and age play a role in determining whether credit cards are used for gift purchases, Marist said. Among gift-givers who earn less than $50,000 annually, 66% said they don't plan to use credit cards for any holiday gifts, while just less than half -- 47% -- of those who earn $50,000 or more say the same.

Younger Americans are more likely to leave their plastic in their wallets, the Marist poll found, with 70% of shoppers aged 18 to 29 saying they aren't using credit cards when buying their holiday gifts. The result compares with 57% of shoppers aged 30 to 44; 56% of those 45 to 59; and 48% of those 60 and older.

Significant Shifts Since 2007

The result seems to contradict another finding in the survey: More people are making purchases online -- and credit cards are the easiest way to shop on the Internet. Marist pollsters found that 42% of shoppers are buying some of their gifts online, while 11% are purchasing all or most of them electronically. The remainder aren't using the Web at all for their holiday shopping.

When Marist last asked that question three years ago, 37% of respondents bought some of their presents online, with 4% using the Web to buy all or most of them. A majority -- 58% -- didn't use the Internet at all in 2007. As with credit-card use, income plays a roll in Internet purchases, with those earning less than $50,000 half as likely to use to buy gifts online than those who earn $50,000 a year or more.

The survey further showed that a slight majority of Americans -- 51% -- expect to spend about the same amount as they did last year on gifts, while 40% are shelling out less and just 9% are spending more. Not surprisingly, the poll found those who earn more than $50,000 a year are more likely to spend the same as last year than those who earn less than that amount -- 58% versus 44%.

Among other findings, Marist said that Americans aged 18 to 29 (23%) are more likely to spend more this year than 30- to 44-year-olds (7%); 45- to 59-year-olds (4%), and those aged 60 and older (6%). Further, Marist said, women (43%) are more likely than men (37%) to spend less.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Advice for Recent College Grads

Prepare yourself for the "real world".

View Course »

How to Avoid Financial Scams

Avoid getting duped by financial scams.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

1 billion dollars a day to purchase oil from foreign countries and we wonder why we are bankrupt. If Odumbmer would allow drilling off the East Coast and West Coast of Florida we could employ thousands and bring the United States out of recession.

When all our money goes out of the country to suppport the foreigners and very little is coming back in we have created a debtor nation.

Wake up America....we have oil and clean burning natural gas right here in America.

December 22 2010 at 12:34 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I use my credit card to get the perks that go with it (cash back, airline miles, etc). However, as soon as the bill comes in, I pay off the whole thing. The bank hates me...

December 21 2010 at 5:11 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Clay S. Conrad

Plastic for on-line purchases, cash for in-person ones. And pay the plastic off before it accrues interest. Also, use a card that comes with cashback for a discount on everything you buy online...

December 21 2010 at 3:06 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Clay S. Conrad's comment


December 21 2010 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Larry , Curly , Moe and Schepp
Of course people aren't like big corporation and spend more than they can handle and then run to the Government for bailouts , but yet those companies tell us , we know how to handle money better than you do .
BoA almost went bankrupt and they say they can show me how to handle my money because they are better at than me , PLEASE !
Citi needed billions for bailout after bad investments , but they are better at handling money they we are , PLEASE !

December 21 2010 at 2:56 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Being partially handicapped I cannot get out to get gift cards. So, I order them on lone. This year they are charging a fee, anywhere from $1.95 to 4.95 per card.
What a rip-off.

December 21 2010 at 2:26 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

If u don't have the money don't buy it! Its silly do use plastic for anything but an emergency like a big item washer dryer car etc....

December 21 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Why do they call it the "Great" recession--there have been several that lasted much longer than the last one.

December 21 2010 at 2:01 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gblank1603's comment

I hate to say it but unfortunately the recession isnt over yet.

December 21 2010 at 3:56 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

the more people buy mainstream products online at wholesale or below, the more jobs are lost in america...literally, its the equivalent of spending hours cleaning your car, only to take it offroad into a mudpit , wreck it & leave it for dead. As warren buffet even said, we aren't producing tangibles anymore & that goes for CONSUMERS BUYING TANGIBLES anymore either. We're cutting out the MIDDLECLASS MIDDLEMAN (workers) who've been replaced by credit card fees & UPS/shipping fees while the producers (china/mexico/india) are creating the middleclass workers paradise.

December 21 2010 at 1:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Free money only available to the tax collector to spend as they please..obama and company suck . Please give more so they can take another vacation on our dollar.

December 21 2010 at 12:58 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

Have you got tour Tripple AAA credit today with your 7.00 hour job ?...LOL

December 21 2010 at 11:33 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply