Managing Debt

New Data Show Consumers Using Their Plastic More Often

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While people around the world are still reeling from the recent recession, many consumers now feel they’re in a better position to handle added debt and spending, and that was reflected in third-quarter statistics from the world’s second-largest card payment processor.

MasterCard saw the number of transactions it handled on its branded debit and credit cards from July to the end of September increase 24 percent – to 8.7 billion – on an annual basis, according to a report from the transaction processing giant. However, even as the number of transactions the company handled climbed considerably, the amount of money spent on those purchases was somewhat more restrained.

In all, gross dollar volume on MasterCard-branded accounts rose 14 percent year-over-year in the third quarter, to $918 billion, while purchase volume spiked 12 percent to $676 billion, the report said. Through the end of September, the company has 1.9 billion of its branded cards in circulation worldwide.

Ajay Banga, the president and CEO of the payment processor, said that in the U.S. in particular, the company has been pleased with the work it did to acquire the loyalty rewards firm Truaxis as a means of better targeting its customers for offers relevant to them, the report said. He also cited programs with large government agencies that will help to save the company money and more effectively and efficiently deliver benefits to borrowers.

Meanwhile, across the first nine months of the year, the company saw gross dollar volume growth of 16 percent, potentially indicating that if anything, consumers reined in their spending in the third quarter compared with the first half of the year, the report said. Further, transaction processing growth stood at 27 percent, which was also higher than the figures observed between July and September.

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Consumers might be feeling better about their finances in general these days, but there will likely be a surge in borrowing and spending in the final quarter of the year as they gear up for the holiday shopping and travel seasons. During this time, many Americans put large amounts on their credit cards to finance various purchases, and then spend the first few months or more of the new year paying down that added debt. During that time, there are typically seasonal increases in delinquency and default as well.

Image: Images_of_Money, via Flickr

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