American Express Reports Consumer Holiday Spending

A new survey from American Express offers some good news for the travel industry reporting that 30 percent of U.S. consumers plan to adjust this year's travel plans for Thanksgiving— historically one of the busiest travel days of the year— but only 21 percent expect those expenses to decrease compared to last year.

American Express’ just released "Spending & Saving Tracker" is the second in a monthly series of reports about consumers' views on the economy and what is motivating them to spend and save. The research sample of 2,009 adults included the general U.S. population as well as two sub-groups— the affluent and young professionals.

Respondents whose plans are changing said they'll rely more on automobile travel, stay for a shorter time and cash-in rewards to help pay for holiday trips. The most significant changes are from the young professionals— 37 percent said they've adjusted their plans versus the affluent and general population (both 30 percent).

"These results show that consumers do plan to open their wallets this holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving travel, but many are re-prioritizing those expenses," said Pamela Codispoti, American Express senior vice president and General Manager, Cardmember Services. "We expect a shift in what people are spending their money on, with our respondents showing that spending on dining and travel are very important to them during this holiday season."

Other results:

*    Nineteen percent of the general population who traveled last year will be staying home in 2009.

*    More than one in 10 (11 percent) young professionals indicated they intend to drive as opposed to fly, compared to 7 percent of the general population and 6 percent of the affluent.

*    Eight percent of young professionals intend to stay fewer days for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, compared to the affluent and general population (both 3 percent).

*    Seven percent of the young professionals are using rewards points, miles and special offers to off-set the cost, versus 4 percent of the affluent and three percent of the general population.

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker indicates that consumers have not measurably changed their overall outlook on spending compared to last month but they are starting to open their wallets for the holiday season. Against the backdrop of high unemployment and a soft housing market, however, they expect to be more selective.

As one might expect, consumers said they plan to spend significantly more over the next 30 days on travel, compared to last month (41 percent versus 33 percent), American Express says. Nearly eight in ten of the affluent expect to spend more, or about the same, over the next 30 days on dining out (78 percent).

Compared to last month, consumers expect to decrease spending in groceries (49 percent versus 40 percent), grooming (23 percent versus 16 percent) and tuition (19 percent versus five percent).