March 03, 2010

Discover® U.S. Spending Monitorsm Rises 2.3 Points In February

Monitor Shows Second Consecutive Increase as Consumers' Economic Outlook Improves and Spending Intentions Stabilize

RIVERWOODS, Ill., Mar 03, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The Discover U.S. Spending Monitor rose 2.3 points in February to 87.5 (based out of 100), as the economic outlook among consumers improved and discretionary spending intentions stabilized. A Monitor-low 35 percent of consumers are concerned about additional expenses or an income shortfall in the month ahead, while more consumers are expecting to have money left over after paying monthly bills.

There was no improvement this month in consumer attitudes toward their personal finances. While discretionary spending intentions have stabilized, there is little indication consumers are planning to increase spending in the months ahead.

Consumer Spending Intentions Stabilize; Monitor-high 57% Percent Plan to Keep Spending Intentions Flat

February saw consumer spending intentions stabilize after months of cutbacks. A Monitor-high 57 percent planned to spend the same amount of money in the month ahead as they did in February, breaking the previous high by 3 points. Discretionary spending intentions also leveled off after months of cutbacks. In the last two years, February marked only the third month in which all discretionary spending categories surveyed showed less than a majority of consumers planning to spend less.

However, rather than increase spending, consumers plan to keep their discretionary spending intentions the same. Forty-one percent expect to spend the same in March as they did in February on discretionary items like going out to dinner or the movies, a 4-point increase. Thirty-three percent plan on spending the same as the prior month on home improvement purchases, also a 4-point increase, and 38 percent plan on spending the same on major purchases like a vacation, a 3-point increase. A majority of consumers even expects no changes in their savings and investing, 52 percent, and spending on household expenses like gas and groceries, 62 percent.

"After months of cutbacks, we've seen two months in a row now in which consumer spending intentions appear to have stabilized," said Julie Loeger, senior vice president of brand and product management for Discover. "Consumers seem to be comfortable as to where they are in terms of spending."

Monitor-low 35% of Consumers Concerned About Added Expenses, Income Shortfall

Consumers also were more comfortable with their budgets in February. Just 35 percent of consumers are expecting an added expense or income shortfall in the month ahead, a Monitor low, while nearly half, 49 percent, are not expecting one. More consumers in February, 48 percent, also were confident they would have money left over after paying monthly bills versus January, 47 percent. On a less positive note, this was the 11th straight month this number has remained below 50 percent. Of those who do have money left over, 69 percent said they would have the same money left over as the previous month, a 3-point increase.

Fewer Consumers Feel Economic Conditions Are Getting Worse, Views on Finances Unchanged

While a majority of consumers, 57 percent, continue to rate the economy as poor, there was a decrease in the number of consumers in February who felt economic conditions were getting worse. Overall, 46 percent felt the economy was deteriorating, a 3-point decrease from January. Twenty-nine percent felt economic conditions were improving, a 2-point increase from the prior month.

Consumers' financial outlook remained unchanged in February. Forty-seven percent feel their finances are getting worse, the same as last month.

"Despite a little improvement in economic sentiment, it was not enough to improve consumer attitudes about their finances," said Loeger. "However, the Monitor has shown in the last couple of months an increase in the number of consumers balancing their budgets and having money left over. If this trend continues, it hopefully will give consumers some financial confidence."

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