First Data's monthly analysis of card transaction data suggests consumers used their cards more in December 2011 than they did in December 2010, but that they spent only the same or less money.
The card processor's monthly SpendTrend analysis tracks same-store consumer spending on credit, debit, benefit cards and checks at retail locations across the country.
Transaction volumes in December 2011 rose on all cards over December 2010, between 6.1% for credit cards and 8.3% for debit cards which are validated with a personal identification number. Transaction volume fell for checks in the same period by 10.2%.
But average ticket volume year over year fell by 0.1% the card processor added, signaling that consumers were willing to spend, but only when they believed the prices were as good as they would get.
“Consumer willingness to spend in December was based largely on the ability to find bargains and merchants utilized steep discounting to drive traffic,” said Silvio Tavares, SVP and division manager of First Data Global Information and Analytics Solutions, which publishes the SpendTrend analysis.