Social Protests Crimp Credit Card Spending

Israelis made more purchases using their plastic in 2012, with the number of transactions growing by 5 million to 35 million. But they spent just NIS 410 per purchase.

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The social justice protests that filled the streets in the summer of 2011, together with a slowing economy, have apparently made the average consumer a better shopper, according to figures on credit card purchases released this week by Gama Management & Clearance Ltd.

Israelis made more purchases using their plastic in 2012, with the number of transactions growing by 5 million to 35 million. But they spent just NIS 410 per purchase, down 8% from NIS 445 million the year before, said Gama, which processes credit card transactions. "Even though consumers are buying more, they split their purchases by locating the cheapest price for each item, even at the expense of convenience and shopping at different locations," said Gama's CEO Ariel Ganot.

Measuring purchases of 35 items at 6,000 retailers across Israel, Gama found that credit card spending for apparel and shoes dropped to NIS 224 per purchase in 2012 from NIS 240 in 2011. The average tab at a cafe fell to NIS 191 from NIS 207. For electronic and electric devices, the average transaction was NIS 1,154, down from NIS 1,208, while on food it dropped to NIS 186 from NIS 196. Purchases of furniture averaged NIS 2,398 in 2012 versus NIS 2,502 in 2011. The biggest drop was in hardware for cellphones, with an average of NIS 805 per purchase in 2012, coming down from NIS 1,358 in 2011.

Some items saw increased credit cards bills, although the products were generally low priced. Spending per purchase of sports gear rose NIS 7 to NIS 404 in 2012, and purchases of jewelry rose by NIS 20 to NIS 730. One exception was computers, were the average purchase prices per transaction jumped to NIS 950 from NIS 869 in 2011, Gamma said. In 2011, with the protests in full gear, they took a second big dip of 10% per purchased computer.

Israelis were spending a whopping NIS 560 per plastic purchase in 2008 before the economy slowed in the face of the global recession. That caused the average purchase to plunge nearly 13% to NIS 488 the following year, before recovering a little in 2010 to an average of NIS 490, according to Gama figures.

Consumer behavior has also changed in terms of payments, Gamma said. The average number of payments in 2012 diminished to 5.19 from 5.72 in 2011. Apparently, lower prices also allow a reduction in the number of payments sought by the customer. "People are financially insecure now," says Ganot, "leading them to seek fewer payments for each transaction."

Visa logos appear on credit and debit cards arranged for a photograph in New York, U.S., on Thursday, July 30, 2009.

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