Men splurge on cars, women on clothes: The gender gap in credit card spending


Stereotypes are not always accurate - yet, when it comes to credit card spending habits, men and women tend to fit society's labels, according to research from Santander Cards.

Men, for example, are more likely to use their cards for cars and bar tabs, while women's card purchases reflect a greater interest in clothing.

Men use credit more than women
According to Santander's numbers, men's credit card usage outstrips that of women. An analysis of millions of card transactions by the bank shows that the average man spends 15% more than the average woman.gender-gap

For both men and women, the biggest proportion of credit card spending takes place in supermarkets. The next most common spending arena is petrol stations, with 8.2% of credit card spend among women and 11.6% among men occurring at the petrol pump. This, however, is where the similarities end.

Women favour clothing and interior furnishings
The third biggest outlay for women is in clothing stores, with 7% of credit card spending among female Santander customers taking place here. In contrast, clothing falls way down the list of men's spending priorities, accounting for only the 14th largest proportion of credit card spending. Women also appear to pay more attention to their homes, with 4.2% of their spending going towards interior furnishings. This type of spending doesn't even make it into the Top 10 trends for men.

Men prefer cars and gadgets
Stereotypical gender spending differences are just as apparent for men. More than 5% of the average male's credit card spending goes towards vehicles, compared with just 2.8% of the average woman's. And men do 4.2% of their spending in electrical appliance stores -- something that is not one of the top trends among women. Men are also inclined to spend more in bars and restaurants (4.1% of card spending) than women (2.7%).

"It's revealing that people seem to conform to gender stereotypes in their credit card usage," said Adam Mussert, a spokesman for Santander Cards, in a statement.

Using spending to your advantage
Mussert noted that, regardless of people's spending patterns, cardholders should consider taking out a cash-back credit card to ensure they get rewarded for making purchases. Many rewards credit cards offer cash back for petrol and supermarket purchases, allowing both men and women to harness their biggest spending areas.

See related: Expert Q&A: A personal finance site for women, Women ‘face higher online card fraud risk'

Published: 2 April 2012