The first three months of this year have witnessed a surge in credit card spending at supermarkets, on food deliveries and in digital services, with some banks reporting a twofold increase at least, as they told The Straits Times last week.
Travel spending, however, has fallen dramatically due to the Covid-19 outbreak and the measures taken to contain it.
OCBC Bank said card spend at online supermarkets had doubled, followed by a 50 per cent increase in spending on both online food deliveries and video or music subscriptions between January and March.
Spending on online gaming services rose by 25 per cent, it added.
Overall credit card spending for its top three spending categories has increased 30 per cent for supermarkets and 20 per cent for insurance, OCBC said, adding that spending at restaurants and bars was down by 7 per cent.
United Overseas Bank (UOB) cards and payments head for Singapore Choo Wan Sim said that its cardholders spent about 50 per cent more on online grocery shopping from a year ago. Customers spent 42 per cent more on online food orders and deliveries and 38 per cent more on e-commerce retail in the same period, she added.
Citi cards and personal loans head Vikas Kumar said: “Online food deliveries grew robustly by 2.5 times and spend has also increased for online movies, games or music subscriptions as well as utilities.”
A Standard Chartered Bank spokesman said close to 40 per cent of total spend took place through online channels for the first three months this year.
Insurance, supermarkets and dining were the top three categories, just like a year ago, he added.
“As expected, we have seen a decline in spend on travel and hotel accommodation,” the spokesman said.
Other banks also noted how the decline in travel spending has weighed on overall card spending.
ONLINE TRANSACTIONS UP
Online food deliveries grew robustly by 2.5 times and spend has also increased for online movies, games or music subscriptions as well as utilities.
MR VIKAS KUMAR, Citi cards and personal loans head.
Limited travel spending was responsible for a 10 per cent fall in overall online card spend at OCBC Bank. Fewer airfare and travel-related purchases, in particular, contributed to this fall, since they typically involve a higher-than-average transaction amount, the OCBC spokesman said.
Ms Choo said: “Not surprisingly, given the global safe distancing and lockdown measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, travel-related spend also decreased sharply from January to March (from a year ago).”
Mr Kumar said overall online spending has increased from a year ago, if travel-related expenses were excluded. “Travel and related spend such as on flights, hotels and lodging and recreation fell the most.”
The Monetary Authority of Singapore noted in its macroeconomic review last Tuesday that credit card companies’ cross-border business has taken a significant hit, with overseas travel coming to a standstill.
“Although online grocery purchases have surged, as have e-commerce sales of daily necessities, the virus has blighted purchases of big-ticket items such as luxury goods, clothing and furniture,” the central bank added.
Singapore recorded its first Covid-19 patient in January and it raised its disease outbreak response system condition or Dorscon to the orange level in February, after a heightened possibility of community spread.
At least two rounds of panic buying at supermarkets have occurred since.
And with most Singaporeans working from home during the circuit breaker period, increased spending through digital transactions comes as no surprise.
DBS Bank noted an $8 billion increase in the value of transactions conducted digitally from a year ago, according to a Business Times report last month.