PhotoMasterCard SpendingPulse reports consumer spending during the holiday shopping period rose 4.9 percent over last year’s numbers, posting the largest increase since 2011.

“Overall, this year was a big win for retail," said Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president of Market Insights at Mastercard. "The strong U.S. economy was a contributing factor, but we also have to recognize that retailers who tried new strategies to engage holiday shoppers were the beneficiaries of this sales increase.”

Spending on electronics and appliances led the way, growing 7.5 percent. Furniture, furnishings and home improvement products also showed strong growth.

Amazon reports this holiday season was its best ever. In just one week, it says more than four million consumers signed up for a Prime trial membership, taking advantage of free faster shipping.

Big year for Alexa

Riding the season’s wave of popularity, Amazon electronic devices did particularly well, with Alexa-enabled items selling in the tens of millions. The company says the Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote were the best-selling products from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon.

“Thank you to the millions of customers and hundreds of thousands of Amazon employees all around the world who made this holiday better than ever before," Jeff Wilke, Amazon's CEO Worldwide Consumer, said in a statement.

The MasterCard SpendingPulse survey shows brick and mortar retailers had a solid season, but their gains were moderate compared to online giants like Amazon. 

Shopping was strong all across the season, from November 1 through December 24. December 23 was the second-largest day for total spending, after Black Friday.

The survey measured spending across all payment types–not just credit card–but it's safe to assume that the bulk of U.S. consumers’ purchases went on plastic, where they will either be paid off in January or added to mounting credit card balances.

Dealing with a credit card hangover

Adding any credit card debt that you won't be able to pay in full during your credit card's grace period can get expensive fast," John Ganotis, founder of told ConsumerAffairs.

That's because the average credit card interest rate is now over 16 percent APR, with many cards coming in with even higher rates.

"If you have balances you can't pay in full, a balance transfer could reduce your interest costs," Ganotis said. "But don't make the mistake of transferring a balance then accumulating more debt on the card you transferred away from."

Ganotis says the Chase Slate is a good balance transfer card because it doesn't have balance transfer fees on balance transfers made in the first 60 days of opening the card.

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