From white elephant gift exchanges at the office to finding the perfect present for your significant other, ’tis the season of spending. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales kicking things off, it’s time to get your holiday shopping strategy in order. Having a plan in place can help you maximize credit card rewards and make sure you stay within a budget.

But how do other people manage their money during the holidays? Discover’s 2019 annual Holiday Spending Survey provides a glimpse into how Americans expect to shop and spend this year.


Millennials are Spending More This Season

A third of millennials — defined as those born between 1981 and 1996 — say they expect to spend more this holiday season than they did in the past. This may be because they have more people on their list; research from the National Retail Federation has found that 52 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 34 expect to purchase gifts for co-workers. Meanwhile, Gen Z is planning to rein it in, with 32 percent saying they plan to spend less this season than they did last year. Across generations, though, one thing is clear: More people on a holiday list means you’re likely going to spend more cash.

Something to keep in mind: One of reasons that may contribute to an increased comfort in spending more this year than in the past is a feeling of confidence about spending and security, as 57 percent of respondents say that they monitor their financial statements for suspicious activity.


Most Gifts Will be Purchased by Credit Card

For the third-straight year, when it comes to the form of payment people plan to use this holiday season, credit cards are the clear favorite: 42 percent of shoppers plan to purchase gifts with a credit card — up from 32 percent two years ago. Convenience is a major benefit: There’s no need to worry about carrying large amounts of cash or finding an ATM in the middle of the mall. In addition, some credit cards, like those from Discover, offer cardmembers zero fraud liability, which means you’re not on the hook for unauthorized purchases.


In addition, competitive rewards programs can make a credit card a smart choice for these purchases — 55 percent of people who plan to use credit cards say they do so for the rewards. That’s why it’s smart to take a moment in the middle of the shopping season to think about which rewards card you should use to maximize your spending. When 71 percent of shoppers base their credit card use on the rewards offered, like with the Discover it® Cash Back card, it’s worth doing your own comparison — consider it a gift to yourself for the new year.


Paying Attention to Credit Card Balances and Interest Rates is Key

While it’s generally a good idea to make sure you can pay off your credit card at the end of every month, sometimes even the best budgeting plans result in carrying a balance for a short time past the holidays. After all, according to the National Retail Federation, the average amount individuals spend during the holiday season is $1,047.83 — with more than $500 going toward gifts for family. That’s why it can be a good idea to pay attention to your balance before you hit the mall or go online — and avoid making purchases that could bring your balance beyond a number you’re comfortable with.

Nearly half (42 percent) of holiday shoppers assess their balance before they buy. In addition, always make sure you understand your interest rate — and remember that some cards offer introductory 0 percent APR to new customers. If you’ve got a substantial shopping list, it may make sense to take advantage of these offers, so you can pay back the card balance, interest free, over several months.

About Discover’s 2019 Holiday Shopping Survey: The national survey of 2,010 U.S. consumers ages 18 and up was commissioned by Discover and conducted by Dynata (formerly Research Now/SSI), an independent survey research firm, between October 21 and October 23, 2019. The maximum margin of sampling error was ±2.18 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. Generations are defined as: Generation Z, born after 1997; millennials, born between 1981 and 1996; Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980; and Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964.

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