Holiday Spending is on the Rise Led by Gen Z and Millennials

November 16, 2021

Half of Americans plan to spoil their loved ones with more gifts this year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

Holiday shopping season is upon us and while the pandemic lingers, spending is on the rise, according to Discover’s annual holiday survey. The survey found 26% of Americans are expecting to spend more during the holidays this year than they did last year – a 10 percentage point increase from those who expected to spend more in 2020. The increase is driven largely by the younger generations as 44% of Gen Z and 33% of Millennials expect to spend more this year.

Holiday spending is on the rise, led by Gen Z and Millennials. (Graphic: Business Wire)

Holiday spending is on the rise, led by Gen Z and Millennials. (Graphic: Business Wire)

Americans also are making up for cautious holiday spending last year, as 51% say they are planning to spoil their loved ones with more gifts. Nearly half, 48%, of those increasing their spending this year plan to spend $200-$599 more on gifts, while 2 in 10 said they would spend an extra $1,000 or more. When it comes to the preferred payment method, Americans continue to favor credit cards as 40% say they will primarily use a credit card for gift purchases, followed by debit or pre-paid cards, 29%, and cash, 15%.

Half of Americans are excited about the upcoming holiday season to see family and friends, exchange gifts and have a more typical holiday with loved ones. However, 3 in 10 people report feeling stressed, driven by their uncertainty about being able to afford gifts, the possibility of going into debt and even concerns about shipping delays.

When thinking about the upcoming holiday season, which of the following emotions are you feeling?













None of the above


What are you most stressed about this holiday season?

What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?

Not being able to afford gifts


Seeing friends and family


Going into debt


Giving gifts


Shipping delays


Enjoying a “normal” holiday season with loved ones for the first time since 2019


“I expect this year’s holiday shopping season to be a busy one as the economy continues to improve. But it doesn’t come without its challenges. We’re seeing consumers factor in delivery timing, potential supply chain issues and earlier shopping as they start to cross off their holiday to-do lists,” said Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez, a nationally recognized personal finance author and Discover partner. “Consumers should also think about using payment options that reward them for the spending they know they’re already going to be doing – like the Discover it® Cashback card which offers 5% cash back at, and on up to $1,500 in purchases now through Dec. 31 when cardmembers sign up.1

Fear of Shipping Delays Impact Shopping Behavior

More Americans are planning to shop in-store this year, rebounding near 2019 levels, with 31% of consumers reporting they will shop in-store this year, compared to 35% in 2019 and 22% in 2020. Of those shopping in-store this year, 71% said it is because they do not want to risk shipping delays.

Nevertheless, shoppers have a plan. Fifty-six percent report if they do encounter shipping delays they will spend more on little gifts, so their loved ones have something to open.

Black Friday continues to dominate the start of holiday shopping as the majority of people plan to start holiday shopping in November or December. Of those who plan to start the last two months of the year, nearly 63% say they’ll start the week of Thanksgiving.

When do you plan to start your holiday shopping?

January – September








Americans are Split on Holiday Travel

Overall, 65% of people feel very or somewhat comfortable traveling this holiday season. Younger generations are most likely to feel comfortable traveling for the holidays, as 72% of Gen Z and 74% of millennials report being comfortable, compared to 66% of Gen X and 53% of Boomers+. This compares to 42% of Americans who reported feeling safe to travel when polled by Discover in April.

Travel is expected to increase this holiday season as 32% of people are planning to travel, compared to last year when only 23% traveled. Of those traveling, 43% plan to use credit card points to help pay for their travel.

“The holidays are always busy with shopping and travel plans and it’s great to see a majority of consumers are excited for the upcoming season. No matter where consumers are spending this year, Discover offers a line-up of credit cards designed to reward them for everyday spending,” said Kate Manfred, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Discover. “Discover’s rewards don’t expire,2 and Discover matches all the Miles or cash back cardmembers earn at the end of their first year,3 which means cardmembers can earn more rewards with holiday purchases this season.”

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 Sept. 30 to Oct. 5, 2021 with a total sample size of 2,000 US adults, ages 18+. The margin of sampling error was ±2 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

1-Activate to earn 5% Cashback Bonus to, and from 10/1/21 (or the date on which you activate 5%, whichever is later) through 12/31/21, on up to $1,500 in purchases. purchases include those made through the checkout, including digital downloads, gift cards, Amazon Fresh orders, Amazon Local Deals, Amazon Prime subscriptions and items sold by third party merchants through’s marketplace. Purchases also include those made in-store at Amazon Go, Amazon Bookstore, and Amazon 4-Star. The logo and the smile logo are trademarks of Amazon or its Affiliates. purchases include only those made at and when shopping through the Walmart app (including Grocery Pick Up and Delivery). Purchases made through affiliates of are not part of this promotion. The logo is a registered trademark of Walmart Inc. purchases include only purchases made online at or through the Target app. Purchases made through affiliates of are not part of this promotion, including, but not limited to, and Target and the Bullseye Design are registered trademarks of Target Brands, Inc. Listed merchants are in no way sponsoring or affiliated with this program.


2-Rewards Never Expire-Your rewards never expire. We will credit your account or send you a check with your rewards balance if your account is closed or if it has not been used within 18 months.


3-Cashback Match: We’ll match all the cash back or Miles rewards you’ve earned on your credit card from the day your new account is approved through your first 12 consecutive billing periods or 365 days, whichever is longer, and add it to your rewards account within two billing periods. You’ve earned cash back or Miles rewards only when they’re processed, which may be after the transaction date. We will not match: rewards that are processed after your match period ends; statement credits; rewards transfers from Discover checking or other deposit accounts; or rewards for accounts that are closed. This promotional offer may not be available in the future and is exclusively for new cardmembers. No purchase minimums.


Derek Cuculich

Source: Discover Financial Services
Multimedia Files: