February 03, 2010

Discover® U.S. Spending Monitorsm Rises 2.2 Points In January

Consumer Spending Intentions Are Flat Despite Improving Financial Confidence

RIVERWOODS, Ill., Feb 03, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The Discover U.S. Spending Monitor rose 2.2 points in January to 85.2 (based out of 100), primarily driven by an increase in the number of consumers feeling better about their personal finances. Despite improving views about their finances, a majority of consumers continue to rate the economy as poor and nearly half don't see economic conditions improving. As a result, consumer spending intentions were flat in January.

Overall, 56 percent of consumers rate the economy as poor, a point lower than December. But 49 percent felt economic conditions were getting worse, a point higher than December.

Majority of Consumers Planning to Hold the Line on Spending

Consumers appear content with the spending cutbacks they made post-holidays. Fifty-three percent expect to spend the same in February as they did in January. This was a 9-point increase from last month's Monitor. But discretionary purchases like going out to the movies or restaurants, and major purchases like a vacation are still being cut by a majority of consumers. Fifty-four percent plan on spending less on discretionary personal purchases, a point increase from December. Fifty-two percent anticipate spending less on major personal purchases, also a point increase. There was no change in home improvement spending intentions month-over-month, and 54 percent of consumers say they will spend the same on household expenses like gas and groceries during the month ahead, a 3-point increase.

"Consumers appear to be holding steady on their spending patterns," said Julie Loeger, senior vice president of brand and product management for Discover. "The economy remains a concern to them and they are likely to be conservative with spending until there are signs that the economy is improving."

More Consumers Feel Better About Their Personal Finances

Economic pessimism did not appear to affect consumers' views about their personal finances in January, as more felt their personal finances were improving. Overall, 34 percent rated their personal finances as good or excellent, a 3-point increase from December and a 9-month high. Furthermore, 22 percent felt their personal finances were getting better, also a 3-point increase from December and a 17-month high. Twenty-four percent currently rate their personal finances as poor and 47 percent feel their finances are getting worse.

Increase in Number of Consumers Having Money Left Over After Paying Monthly Bills

There were also some positive indicators in January's Monitor in terms of consumers better managing their budgets. While still less than a majority, 47 percent of consumers expect to have money left over after paying the monthly bills. This was a 3-point increase from last month's Monitor low. Of those who do have money left over, 81 percent planned on having the same or more money remaining than the previous month, an 8-point increase from December and a 9-month high.

The number of consumers expecting an added expense or income shortfall in the month ahead fell in January. Only 38 percent were expecting an added expense or income shortfall, the first time this number has dropped below 40 percent since September.

"With consumers holding the line on spending, they are better able to pay off their monthly bills," said Loeger. "This has allowed them to grow more confident about their personal finances. Hopefully, this will continue in the months ahead."

About Discover U.S. Spending Monitor

The Discover(R) U.S. Spending MonitorSM is a monthly index of consumer spending intentions and capacity that is based on interviews with a random sample of 8,200 U.S. adults conducted at a rate of 275 per night. In addition to spending, the survey asks consumers their opinions on the U.S. economy and their personal finances. The Monitor began in May 2007 with a base index of 100. Surveys are conducted by Rasmussen Reports, an independent survey research firm (

About Discover

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a direct banking and payment services company with one of the most recognized brands in U.S. financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company operates the Discover card, America's cash rewards pioneer, and offers personal and student loans, online savings accounts, certificates of deposit and money market accounts through its Discover Bank subsidiary. Its payment businesses consist of Discover Network, with millions of merchant and cash access locations; PULSE, one of the nation's leading ATM/debit networks; and Diners Club International, a global payments network with acceptance in more than 185 countries and territories. For more information, visit

SOURCE: Discover Financial Services

Matthew Towson