First Data Shows Upticks in Card Use — of all kinds

One the one hand, we like to tout February as a “second season” to attract shoppers, after the holidays — what with Super Bowl weekend followed by Valentine’s Day. And then there’s Presidents’ Day weekend, with its traveling and “get away” plans. Add it all up, and tends to mean active customers for a wide array of businesses.

But then, there’s the February report from First Data Corp., analyzing those late-winter spending patterns. And Rikard Bandebo, First Data’s VP and Economist, says “the combination of elevated taxes, federal tax refund delays, adverse weather and higher gasoline prices clearly curbed shoppers’ ability and willingness to shop in February.”

Meaning that same-store consumer spending was down a couple percentage points from the same time last year. But, pertinent to our business here, the report also showed that credit card dollar volume growth was up for the second consecutive month.

Bandebo put things in yin/yang terms. On the downside, “the fact that the personal savings rate significantly declined in January and consumers shifted more spending onto credit cards could be a sign that consumers may be overstretched.” But on the upside, he continued, “there are many other factors that could impact spending going forward including an improving labor market, steadily rising home values, healthy gains in the equity markets and the federal budget sequestration.”

We’re not sure how sequestration is added to the list of positives, especially with a recovery that is still tenuous, but there were other positives cited by the report in terms of the different ways that customers pay for their goods:

The analysis showed that prepaid card transactions were up 3.2 percent, signature debit was up 2 percent, and PIN debit use crept up 1.3 percent. Check payments declined by 4.2 percent from the same time last year.

All of which means if your business doesn’t already offer them, you should make sure you not only accept, but perhaps offer, prepaid cards, as well as making sure that credit and debit card use for your customers is as easy — online or off — as possible.

We can even help you accept those checks — electronically!

So get in touch with your AVPS rep today. Spring holidays are just ahead — followed by Mom’s Day, then a slew of graduations, Dad’s Day, weddings, and more.  And those card use numbers will be “upticking” even more in the weeks ahead.

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