Credit card travel spend eclipses pre-pandemic levels

2nd October 2023

Latest credit card spending data from Halifax suggests it’s been a busy year for travelling, as travel-related spend (including on airlines and hotels), rose by 27% compared to 2019 and by 18% since 2022.

This year, credit card spending at the UK’s twenty most popular air carriers (including British Airways, Jet2, EasyJet, Ryanair, Virgin and Emirates) grew by almost 47% compared to last year and by 44% compared to 2019 – equivalent to an additional £290m (2019 vs 2023) spent on credit cards at the most popular airlines.

While the Halifax data showed an increase in credit card spending at almost all airlines, it is budget airlines which took the lion’s share of the growth – with one popular airline seeing an 123% jump on last year, suggesting people were taking the opportunity to jet off to sunnier climes, at attractive prices too.

When looking at all airline credit card spending, there has been a 36% jump since 2019, and 40% on last year, with the average payment increasing to £288 from £253.

When looking at overseas spending growth, it is East Asia and the Australian continent which dominate.  Chiefly, Japanese yen, where credit card spending sky-rocketed with an almost 500% increase, compared to 2022, following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

The length of time pandemic rules were in place will also be a factor in the growth of the New Zealand dollar (alongside a boost from hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup) and the Singapore dollar this year, compared to last.

Just two currencies in Halifax’s analysis showed a credit card spending fall, the UAE dirham at -7.5% and the Barbados dollar at -2.5%.

Overall, credit card spending overseas has risen by 15% since 2019 and up 22% on last year – to be expected, following inflation rises, through-out 2023.

Marc Lien, Cards Director, Halifax said “It’s been a variable summer weather wise but that hasn’t stopped our customers getting out and enjoying themselves, as our data shows travel credit card spending – including with airlines and hotels – is now higher than pre-pandemic levels.”

“As you’d expect, Europe remains popular with holiday makers, and most credit card payments made overseas are in Euros – up by a fifth since last year.  However, we’ve seen an incredible surge in spending in East Asia – with huge growth in Japanese yen, Singapore dollars and the Thai baht, alongside the New Zealand and Australian dollars, as overseas travellers have been able to visit these countries again.”

“When planning a holiday overseas, people should have a think before they head off about the best spending option for their needs – this might be a fee-free travel credit card, or ordering currency in advance, to get the best possible exchange rate.”