Holiday Shopping and the use of Credit

By The Harris Poll, Special for  USDR

Cash may be king, at least as far as the saying goes, but credit seems to count itself among the nobility as well, at least where American holiday spending is concerned. When asked to estimate the balance between their cash/debit and credit card spending in a typical holiday season, nearly two thirds (65%) indicate that they make at least some of their purchases using credit  cards.

More specifically, a third (33%) say they either exclusively make holiday season purchases using credit cards (15%) or that they make more purchases on credit than they do using cash or debit cards (17%). Thirteen percent (13%) use each in equal measure, while roughly half (49%) say they use cash/debit either predominately (20%) or exclusively  (29%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,368 general population U.S. adults, along with representative oversamples of 511 Hispanic Americans (interviewed in English and Spanish) and 179 Asian Americans (interviewed in English), surveyed online between September 9 and 17, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found  here.

  • A majority of Matures (54%) say they predominately (or exclusively) use credit cards for their holiday season spending, compared to roughly four in ten Baby Boomers (42%), over a fourth of Gen Xers (27%) and just under two in ten Millennials (18%).
  • Six in ten Asians (60%) say the same, vs. nearly four in ten Whites (38%), a quarter of Hispanics (25%) and fewer than two in ten Blacks (17%).

Paying it  off
For those who use credit cards with a rewards program and pay it off quickly rather than carry over a balance from month to month, credit spending can be a useful part of one’s financial toolbox. But are Americans paying it off quickly or carrying lingering debt? Among those who typically use credit cards for any of their holiday spending, over six in ten (62%) say they pay it off either right away (39%) or within a month  (23%).

However, roughly three in ten (31%) hold onto their holiday debt over longer periods. Specifically, 15% say they pay it off within three months, 8% within six months, and another 8% say it takes them longer than six months to pay off the  debt.

It turns out that those most likely to use credit cards for at least some of their holiday season purchases are also most likely to pay it off quickly. Among those who do any holiday season spending on credit, Matures (81%) and Baby Boomers (69%) are far more likely than Gen Xers (50%) and Millennials (52%) to say they typically pay off this debt either right away or within a  month.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 9 and 17, 2015 among 2,368 adults (aged 18 and over). Additionally, oversamples were collected in English and Spanish among 511 Hispanic (representing Spanish-dominant, English-dominant and Bilingual profiles) respondents and in English among 179 Asian respondents. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be  online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this  ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be  calculated.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.