1-in-3 Consumers Plan to Spend Less This Upcoming Holiday Season

November 18, 2020

COVID-19 pushes consumers more toward online shopping and contactless payments

Riverwoods, IL, Nov. 18, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of millions, and its impact will trickle into how much, and where, consumers plan to spend this holiday season, according to Discover’s annual Holiday Shopping survey. The number of consumers who plan to curb spending almost doubled in one year, from 18% in 2019 to 35% in 2020. The survey also shows Generation Xers and millennials are the most likely to cut back their spending this year, 42% and 36%, respectively.

Financial instability and disrupted social engagements are the top reasons consumers report shifting their budgets. Of those who plan to spend less:

  • 37% attribute their decision to financial instability caused by COVID-19
  • 32% attribute their decision to spend less on food and decorations due to a lack of holiday gatherings
  • 28% attribute their decision to no longer needing to travel like they have in years past

“The pandemic has affected many aspects of life for nearly all consumers, and this holiday season will be no different,” said Meera Sridharan, vice president of rewards and product strategy at Discover. “As consumers navigate holiday spending decisions, we’re here to help them get the most for their money. The Discover it® Cash Back card, for example, has a rotating rewards calendar that complements consumers’ shifting spending throughout the year, and given the acceleration in online shopping, we are featuring top ecommerce retailers for this holiday season.”

Contactless Payments Increase

As consumers change their holiday plans, they are also changing where they are shopping. In light of COVID-19, 74% of consumers will be shopping online more, and 61% said they will participate more in online shopping holidays such as Cyber Monday, Discover’s survey shows.

A strong majority of younger consumers also plan to support small businesses. Seventy-seven percent of Gen Z and 70% of millennials said they would be shopping more frequently at small businesses this year compared to 61% of Gen X and 49% of boomers. In addition, younger generations plan to get a head start on their holiday shopping. Seventy-seven percent of Gen Zers and 71% of millennials reported they would start shopping earlier this year, compared to 60% of Gen X and 42% of boomers.

Of those who plan to do most of their holiday shopping online, nearly half of those surveyed, 49%, said they are doing so to better protect their health during COVID-19, and 38% reported a discomfort shopping near crowds in-store.

Even when shopping in-store, consumers are favoring contactless technology, as 68% of respondents said they will use contactless payments more to avoid touching public surfaces, and 66% said they would use less cash as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consumers across all generations are using contactless payments when shopping for the holidays, the survey found. Notably, 78% of millennials said they would be using contactless payments more frequently, followed by Gen Z, 75%, Gen X, 70%, and boomers, 60%.

“We’ve seen a remarkable change in consumers’ shopping behaviors since the pandemic began, and by equipping our credit cards with contactless technology, we are solving a customer need while also giving cardmembers another convenient and safe way to pay at stores,” said Szabolcs Paldy, senior vice president of portfolio marketing at Discover. “Tapping and paying with a contactless credit card is seamless, and is one of many ways our customers can pay when using a Discover credit card.”

Fraud Concerns Sharply Increase Among Gen Z

Even as more consumers are planning online transactions, their overall concern with fraud remains about the same as it was last year. Eighty-five percent of consumers reported some level of concern about identity theft and fraud in 2020, compared to 83% in 2019.

However, Gen Z’s concern rose sharply. Fifty-nine percent of Gen Z reported moderate- to high-concern about the risk of fraud – an increase from 33% in 2019. In addition, more Gen Zers are taking measures to protect themselves against identity theft this year. In 2019, 32% of Gen Z said they did not do anything to protect themselves from identity theft, but in 2020, that number dropped to a mere 18%.

About the Survey

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a Dynata (formerly Research Now/SSI) survey conducted on behalf of Discover Financial Services. The survey was conducted online; fielded from October 21 to 23, 2019, and from September 22 to 25, 2020, with a total sample size of 2,010 (2019) and 2,000 (2020) US adults (ages 18+). The margin of sampling error was ±5 percentage points with a 90-95 percent level of confidence. The following generational breaks were used when examining the data: Gen Z (18-22), millennials (23-38), Gen X (39-54), and baby boomers (55-73).

About Discover

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a digital 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 issues the Discover card, America's cash rewards pioneer, and offers private student loans, personal loans, home loans, checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit through its banking business. It operates the Discover Global Network comprised 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 around the world. For more information, visit www.discover.com/company.

Media Contact
Jennifer Delgado


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