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There are a plethora of statistics regarding credit card usage but what I can't seem to find is the the value of the average credit card (or debit card) transaction.

Are such statistics provided by payment processing companies or is this information typically not given? Does anyone know any sources for this information?

  • What problem are you trying to solve? – Chris W. Rea Mar 12 '13 at 0:22
  • plethora of statistics. And what purpose does it serve anybody to collate all of them ? Government will probably do for its own citizens, card companies will do for their own customers, credit rating agencies will probably do for the country they are located in. So it maybe difficult to do it for all transactions, maybe you have to do it yourself. – DumbCoder Mar 12 '13 at 9:30
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    I am asking this in "personal finance" because the question relates to personal financial topics. (If there is a better site for this question, I apologize for not asking it there.) Anyway, I have a project that I'm working on and this metric would be quite useful. What I've found is that many of the credit card companies to offer general statistics about their average, household client (i.e. How much debt they own, debt-to-income ratio, etc.) but I couldn't find a metric, any where, stating the size of the average transaction. It would be an interesting figure to know, though. – RLH Mar 12 '13 at 10:20
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Credit Cards

There are quite a few statistics on this subject.

indexcreditcards.com - This might be a good starting point.

The Federal Reserve reports that credit cards are used more than 20 billion times a year in the U.S., with the total value of these transactions at about $1.9 trillion.

Based on the number of transactions and the number of credit card holders, the average card holder uses a credit card 119 times a year, for transactions averaging $88 apiece. This comes to an average annual total of about $10,500 in credit card purchases.

PFblog

CardWeb reported that in the last year, the average size of credit card transaction tops $100 for the first time. 2003's average of $101.64 is 1.9% higher than last year's $99.76 and represents 16% increase in 10 years.

Quora

At the end of 2009 the average purchase made with Visa or MasterCard Credit Cards was $82.56, a number lower than previous years, where the average was slightly over $100. You can order more recent reports on this figure from CardData.

The indexcreditcards.com article might have some useful strategies for calculating these statistics, like combining the Federal Reserve data (for example, from FRED) with Census and industry estimates. That's probably the best place to start for recent data that shouldn't cost anything (or if it does, the cost shouldn't be prohibitive). Cardweb looks like it compiles the information you need too, but according to their site, subscriptions start at $1,495.00.

If you need this data for research purposes, citing a website isn't sufficient, but assuming you describe how to came up with your statistics, combining data sets in the way mentioned above should work.

Debit Cards

For similar information relating to debit cards, the Federal Reserve also has information about that, since they work with payment processing networks.

There were approximately 46.7 billion debit card transactions in 2011, with a value of more than $1.8 trillion. This was a 24 percent increase from the number of transactions in 2009 (37.6 billion) and a 27 percent increase from the value of transactions in 2009 ($1.4 trillion). Signature debit transactions represented about 63 percent of transaction volume and 61 percent of transaction value in 2011; the remainder were PIN debit transactions.

mainstreet.com also cites data provided by mint.com which finds that "the average debit card transaction amount in 2010 was $71." This isn't a random sample because it only represents data on mint.com users. Intuitively, I can think of reasons for why users of mint.com would spend either more or less than the population as a whole, but I'm not sure which is true.

Keep in mind, though, that debit card transactions might qualify as Electronic Fund Transfers, which could complicate the picture. I haven't researched payment processing networks extensively, so I can't make a statement on that one way or another.

  • Wow, thank you so much. All of this information is quite useful. – RLH Mar 14 '13 at 15:40
  • @RLH Glad to hear it. I added a link to FRED at the St. Louis Fed, which has a few time series that might be relevant. – John Bensin Mar 14 '13 at 15:47
  • Do you know if this also relates to Debit Card transactions? I ask because my specific project needs to come up with a baseline, average value of the average consumer purchase, regardless of the type of purchase made. – RLH Mar 14 '13 at 15:53
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    @RLH You might want to check out the Consumer Expenditure Survey as well, if you're interested in highly detailed data about consumer expenditures. – John Bensin Mar 14 '13 at 16:49
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    This is an absolutely terrific answer. Well done. – a CVn Mar 22 '13 at 15:07
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I'm don't know what the extent of your project is, but there are studies that have shown people generally spend MORE when they use plastic - specifically cash vs. credit, not sure if the number is higher when it's cash vs. debit. You may want to start there, and see what you find. If that figure does not exist on its own, you may just have to use the averages you mentioned. If it were my project, I would state that I couldn't find that number, but here are the averages from these different sources and possibly use an average of those averages, but I'm not entirely sure what that number would indicate.

  1. Carnegie Melon: http://www.cmu.edu/homepage/practical/2007/winter/spending-til-it-hurts.shtml
  2. MIT: http://web.mit.edu/simester/Public/Papers/Alwaysleavehome.pdf
  3. NPR Interview Robert Frank (Cornell Econ. Prof.) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92178034
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    "there are studies" implies at least more than one. Can you cite one or two? It's a "well known fact" that people spend more on cards than with cash, and yet, I've not seen one study that wasn't contrived. e.g. an experiment in which college students are given a $10 gift card or $10 cash and walked into McDonalds. To anyone with a drop of statistician's blood running through their veins such studies are useless in that they do not extrapoloate to the multi-thousand dollar budget of adults. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Mar 14 '13 at 19:04
  • Edited my answer with references. Maybe I'm the only one in the whole US of A, but I certainly found it to be true in my personal life. When I worked at Best Buy years ago, one of the things we were encouraged to offer were credit cards (either the store card or the RewardZone Mastercard) because...the average sales tickets were higher than other forms of payment (cash, check, or debit). We were told that the credit cards gave the customer more "purchasing power." – Waddler Mar 20 '13 at 15:17
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    forgive me, you get points for followup, but the references all prove my point. Small studies with low dollars at risk. The study of how a student decides how much to spend on one sporting ticket doesn't extrapolate to 'real life' in my opinion. I suspect the study I'd be looking for doesn't exist. It would be too expensive with no one to support it. Please understand, I'm not really disputing the fact itself, just that it remains unproven. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Mar 20 '13 at 21:01
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    @Waddler - The Investopedia article links to a SoundMoneyTips site that appears dead. It also cites a mythical D&B study that doesn't exist. getrichslowly.org/blog/2010/04/27/… mentions the lack of such an article. The internet is a funny place, a non-existent article is cited, and that citation is quoted over and over. While the premiss is quite believable, and the McDonald effect likely 100% true, you'd be hard pressed to pick through a $3K-$4K/month budget and find that kind of overspending. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Mar 21 '13 at 17:35
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    @waddler - (thank you) not at all. For discussion's sake, say only 20% pay in full. My claim is that these people are less prone to the effect of overspending on credit cards. I agree, there's a 'credit effect' but believe it's not easily quantifiable (no real study, yet) and that there are two 'populations' that need segregating within a thorough study. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Mar 22 '13 at 12:25

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