South African consumers spent over R116 billion on their credit cards in December 2012, payment clearing house BankservAfrica said on Thursday.
About R40bn of that was on retail, while another R20bn went towards travelling, eating out and entertainment.
Another R20bn went towards car-related expenses such as fuel, tolls, services and repairs.
The average value of card transactions was only 5.6 percent higher than a year ago. The 5.6 percent was also the current inflation rate.
BankservAfrica CEO Brad Gillis said in a statement consumers were struggling to keep up with electricity prices and had less cash.
“Consumers bought extra food, furniture and clothes for the family rather than spending money on luxury holidays,” he said.
Mike Schussler, economist at economists.co.za, said: “South African consumers are certainly a bit more under pressure than before, as this is the lowest increase in average card values for a December holiday period since 2009.”
Consumers mainly spent at supermarkets and service stations, followed by department stores and restaurants.
Over 18 million transactions took place in grocery stores and supermarkets.
This was followed by 10.6m credit card transactions at petrol stations and their convenience stores.
These two categories represented about a third of all known card transactions for December.
The least number of transactions took place in the travel industry (including flights) and furniture stores.
For every one travel transaction, there were 13 transactions in a restaurant, and for every hairdresser visit, there were 10 to either a garage or its convenience store.
“This was nearly R2500 per transaction, indicating that holiday travel, along with accommodation, were two of the biggest spending items for consumers. Other big spending items were furniture and vehicle services and repairs,” said Gillis.