How Much do Americans Spend on Commutes?

By Citi, Special for  USDR

For many, the daily commute is a cost that goes largely unrewarded, with consumers across the nation traveling 45 minutes on average and spending approximately $10 per day – approximately $2,600 and 200 hours annually – according to a new survey commissioned by the Citi ThankYou® Premier card, a credit card designed specifically to reward everyday travelers. The majority of U.S. consumers (60%) nationally said their commuting costs have increased over the last five years, while most (79%) indicate gas is their largest cost. Citi ThankYou Premier recently enhanced its benefits leading it to be one of the most competitive travel rewards cards, offering 3 points for every $1 spent on travel ranging from gas, public transport, tolls and parking to airfare, hotels and car  rental.

“For the millions of people who commute on a daily basis, the unavoidable costs can have a major impact on household budgets,” said Chris Fred, Head of Proprietary Product Management at Citi Cards. “We like to think of Citi ThankYou Premier as the official rewards card of the daily commute, since it provides an opportunity for hardworking consumers to earn rewards on every dollar they spend commuting, which helps them get to their next vacation  faster.”

The survey found that commuting trends vary among major U.S. cities. The national average cost of a daily roundtrip commute is $12.Los Angeles had the highest daily roundtrip cost ($16), and Chicago and San Francisco were the lowest ($11). New Yorkers have the longest commute, with an average commute time of 73 minutes and 44% commuting over an hour. In comparison, commute length averaged roughly an hour in Chicago (64 minutes), San Francisco (56 minutes) and Los Angeles (55 minutes). Miami had the shortest commute among cities polled with an average commute time of 49  minutes.

The Citi ThankYou Premier Commuter Index also revealed the following  trends:

  • Commuters Prefer Driving: Commuters are primarily using their own car (77%), followed by the bus (21%), subway (9%) and train (8%).
  • Gas is Overwhelmingly the Highest Commuting Cost: The majority of commuters (79%) spend most of their commuting money on gas, followed by public transportation (14%) and tolls (3%).
  • Making the Most of Commute Time: 76% of those who are employed full-time see their commute as a time to relax, while 24% see it as a time to be productive. One in three commuters nationally conducts conference calls while in transit. New Yorkers (52%) were twice as likely as the national average (26%) to email. Commuters in Chicago (37%) were three times more likely than the national average (12%) to prepare for meetings. And, Los Angeles commuters make the most of their commute time by doing errands (37%, compared to national average of 23%).
  • Relaxing in Transit to and from Work: The majority of commuters listen to music (85%) and one in four (27%) are calling friends and family. How commuters relax varies by city – New Yorkers are most likely to read a book or magazine (39%). Social media use was popular among New York (29%), Chicago (26%) and San Francisco (20%) commuters. Miami residents are most likely to call family or friends (40%).  San Francisco commuters are less likely to chat with other commuters (8%) compared toNew York and San Francisco (16%).
  • Commute Time is Used as “Me” Time:  67% of commuters – including 72% of women – consider transit time to be the only “me time” they get during the day.
  • A More Pleasant Commute: Even though many commuters relax while in transit, the majority (88%) are looking for their commute to be more pleasant by enjoying their favorite music (64%), having their favorite drink or snack (40%), taking a different, more scenic route (33%) and traveling with friends (30%).
  • Open to Trying Bike Shares if Available: Nearly half of consumers (49%) who don’t currently commute by bike would use a bike share if it were available in the area. Commuters in Chicago (60%) and Los Angeles (59%) would most likely use a bike service if it were available in their area.
  • Germ-Spreading is Biggest Pet Peeve: The worst type of commuter was identified as the “germ spreader” who is sick or doing something unseemly, followed by “The Talker.” To deal with these passengers, a majority have tried switching seats (65%) or distracting themselves with music or a phone conversation (50%).
  • Few Use Technology to Enhance the Commute: For such a plugged in world, the majority (70%) of consumers aren’t taking advantage of technology to enhance their commute. Those who do are using navigation apps (7%), social media (6%), or a cellphone/table/computer (5%). Navigation apps were most popular in Los Angeles (17%), San Francisco (15%) and Miami (13%).

About Citi ThankYou  Premier
Citi ThankYou Premier enables cardmembers to quickly earn points on their purchases, at an annual fee of $95 (waived for the first year) and no foreign transaction fees on  purchases:

  • 3 points for every $1 spent on travel including gas, from taxi and car service, public transportation, parking, tolls and bike shares – to airfare, hotels, vacation rentals, cruises, car rentals, travel agencies, railways, and more;
  • 2 points for every $1 spent on dining out and entertainment, from coffee at a café and  dinner at a restaurant to tickets to sporting events, concerts, movies, music downloads and more; and
  • 1 point for every $1 spent on other purchases.

There is no limit on the number of points a cardmember can earn and no point expiration. When redeeming for flights, hotels, cruises and car rentals through the ThankYou® Travel Center, cardmembers can use 20 percent fewer ThankYou Points as compared to gift cards – that gives them 25 percent more value. ThankYou Points can also be redeemed for thousands of rewards – far beyond travel – including gift cards, merchandise, and more on Citi ThankYou Premier cardmembers can also Shop With Points on, use points as a credit towards charges on their credit card account, or to make online bill payments with an enrolled Citibank® checking  account.

For more information on the Citi ThankYou Premier card, including how to apply, visit

About the Citi ThankYou Premier Commuter  Index
The Citi ThankYou Premier Commuter Index was conducted by Wakefield Research among 3,500 total consumers across the U.S., including a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults ages 35-54 and 500 additional adult respondents in New York Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami. The survey was fielded between May 5, 2015, and May 12, 2015, using an online  survey.

About Citi
Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth  management.

Additional information may be found at | Twitter: @Citi | YouTube: | Blog:| Facebook: | LinkedIn:


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