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  • Writer's pictureRoy Urrico

Summer Spending Survey Reveals Generational View on Credit Options

Source: "The Credit Economy: How Consumers Financed Their Summer Travel," a PYMNTS and i2c collaboration.

By Roy Urrico

Finopotamus aims to highlight white papers, surveys and reports that provide a glimpse as to what is taking place and/or impacting credit unions and other organizations in the financial services industry.

There are generational differences in the way people viewed credit for summer spending, according to a survey conducted just prior to the peak summer travel season. The Credit Economy: How Consumers Financed Their Summer Travel, a PYMNTS and i2c collaboration, examined consumer behaviors and attitudes related to summertime spending.

The report surveyed 3,389 consumers between June 26 and June 30, 2023 to explore what drives interest in using credit cards and buy now, pay later (BNPL) products to pay for trips and vacations among different generations. Among its findings: Close to two-thirds of consumers planned to travel this summer, while nearly one third expected to take advantage of the vacation getaway season compared to 2022.

Younger generations were especially interested in journeying, with seven in 10 Generation Z and millennial consumers reporting they made, or planned to make, summer travel plans. However, personal finance considerations strongly influenced consumer decisions.

Among consumers who planned to travel more, 42% cited improved personal finances or increased job security as a factor driving this decision. High travel costs and concerns about personal finance and job stability were the most commonly cited reasons for their reluctance to travel as much as they did last summer.

The Role of Credit

Serena Smith, chief client officer at i2c.

“Our research illustrates how younger consumers are more reluctant to use credit products to pay for summer travel,” Serena Smith, chief client officer at i2c, which provides what they describe as “highly configurable banking and payment solutions.” She added: “Younger consumers tend to worry more about overspending, which may explain why they are more reluctant to use credit products.”

The report data also showed that credit cards remain the most popular type of credit product consumers used to pay for leisure travel. More than two-thirds of consumers who traveled or planned to travel this summer used credit cards to pay for the expense. Moreover, consumer use of credit cards in paying for summer travel increases with annual income, yet varies by age group, as younger consumers opt for other credit products, such as BNPL.

For the consumers who chose not to use credit products to pay for travel, debit cards and cash were popular alternatives. These consumers opted for other payment methods to avoid interest rates or fees, track their spending more easily and rein in overspending.

Key Takeaways

The report revealed some key findings:

  • Travel spending is a leading indicator of how consumers feel about their overall financial health. Sixty-two percent of consumers planned to travel this summer, with 30% planning to travel more this summer than last.

  • Consumers spent, on average, $2,200 on summer travel and were more likely to spend on travel than live entertainment or electronics. Also: one in four consumers spent money on leisure travel in the 90 days prior the survey — more than those who spent on consumer electronics and live entertainment, and nearly as many as those who spent on healthcare.

  • Travel spending provides a window into consumer credit preferences: Most travelers reached for their credit cards to pay for summer travel, although Gen Z consumers were more likely to use BNPL, and low-income consumers were less likely to use any type of credit. Credit cards were the most popular credit product used for leisure travel. Two-thirds of consumers who paid for travel used or planned to use credit cards for their travel spending this summer. Planned credit card use increased with annual income and varied by generation.

  • Gen Z and millennials avoid using credit to pay for travel expenses because they have less access to it and do not care about rewards. Nearly three-quarters of Gen Z and millennial consumers were interested in traveling this summer, but these younger consumers were the least likely to reach for credit cards — or any credit product — to pay for this travel. Just 29% of Gen Z consumers and 40% of millennials preferred to use credit products when traveling, compared to 52% of baby boomers and seniors.

Financial Health And Summer Travel

Source: "The Credit Economy: How Consumers Financed Their Summer Travel," a PYMNTS and i2c collaboration.

“Interestingly, younger consumers are more likely to turn to credit alternatives such as BNPL, since they may have less access to credit and are not as interested in rewards,” the report stated. It noted interest rates and fees are a downside to credit cards, especially when traveling abroad, leading many consumers to use cash or debit cards to pay for travel. “Consumers, especially those in Gen Z, are also worried about overspending if they use credit products.”

Another key finding is that consumers’ varied financial standing leads them to make different choices when planning and paying for travel. For example, earning rewards drives older and more financially secure consumers to use credit cards, while managing cash flows and accessing better terms drives millennial and Gen Z consumers toward BNPL.

Cash and debit cards are also viable solutions for younger and lower income travelers looking to control their spending. “The availability of multiple ways to pay bodes well for the future of leisure travel, making it more accessible to all income brackets and age group,” according to the report.


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