Visa Identifies Behavioral Changes In Consumer Spending

The cashless economy moved online during the first quarter of 2020, although purchases fell, Visa reported during its earnings call.

Overall U.S. payments through Visa transactions fell 19%, debit fell 6%, and credit fell 31% through April 28, 2020, as many expected, on net revenue of $5.9 billion, up about 7%.

“We’re seeing people during these last couple of months start to buy things in the ecommerce environment that they would typically buy in-store, whether that's furniture, electronics, in some cases apparel,” Al Kelly, Visa chairman and CEO, said during the company’s earnings call Thursday.” “I think to the degree that they've had good experiences, that that's a really good thing.

There is also a significant difference in how stay-at-home orders in the United States impacted the amount that consumers spent in each category.

One-fifth of U.S. payments were made in drugstores, along with retailers Walmart, Costco and Target. This is the only category still growing -- approximately 20% in April. The growth is coming from online spending -- up more than 100% in the last two weeks of April -- assisted by the adoption of curbside pickup and delivery, according to Visa.

Another one-fifth of U.S. payments is in categories that are less discretionary, such as telecom, utilities, insurance, and business supplies and equipment. These categories shrunk less than 15% at the end of March and have recovered to flat with a prior in April. A third of Visa’s U.S. payments are in categories that declined between 15% and 50%, such as retail, automotive, healthcare, education and government.

There are significant changes. Essential purchases are showing more resiliency. For example, home improvements within retail, or hospital and medical equipment within healthcare, categories where spending can be delayed or is more discretionary or more heavily impacted.

About one-fourth of Visa’s payments volume remains in the hardest-hit categories, which include travel, fuel, restaurants and entertainment -- all declining over 50% in April. The travel decline affects all subcategories, with the deepest at around 80%.

Fuel declines were driven both by falling prices and fewer gallons purchased, which typically offset one another to some degree, but not now. Quick-service restaurants are holding up better, in part due to being better equipped for this environment, but apps drive-thru and delivery infrastructures already in place.

Within entertainment, amusement parks and movie theaters are especially hard hit, while gaming is a small component of the category is up over 200%

Overall, payments volume grew globally, between 5% and 7% excluding China, with more than 500 million transactions on Visa per day for each of the 91 days in the quarter.

Cross-border volume fell 2% on a constant dollar basis, and the company processed 34.9 billion transactions on its network, up 7% compared with the prior year.

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