UAE consumers splurge on their credit cards as leisure spending increases

Consumers splashed as much Dh10 billion a month on their credit cards in the UAE last year, with a sharp rise in spending on restaurants and staycations.

According to the Dubai-based electronic payments specialist Network International, consumers have been steadily spending between Dh9bn and Dh10bn a month on their UAE-issued ­credit and debit cards for the past two years.

Network, which monitors data from the card transactions it processes via some 18,000 merchants in the UAE in 2015, found that overall spending on plastic in the country grew 9 per cent last year compared with 2014. .

“The UAE economy, driven by diversification into non-oil revenues, has borne resilience to current market dynamics,” said David Mountain, Network International’s chief commercial officer.

Despite a traditional reluctance among Middle Eastern consumers to use credit cards, the number of people willing to spread their plastic is increasing as UAE banks continue to heavily promote credit cards at the same time as the popularity for online shopping is growing.

According to the Network data, UAE residents spent 23 per cent more on their cards in cafes and restaurants in 2015 than they did the previous year. Customers with Qatari-issued cards showed the biggest rise in restaurant spending with a 50 per cent jump over the previous year. Lebanese cardholders displayed the biggest appetites, remaining the highest per purchase spenders in this category.

And UAE cardholders also spent 10 per cent more at hotels inside the UAE on their cards last year than they did in 2014. ­Visitors from Saudi Arabia ­increased their spending in UAE hotels by 12 per cent, while card spending from UK visitors increased by14 per cent.

Overall hotel spending was up 4 per cent in 2015 compared with a year earlier, Network said, but the amount of money spent per purchase was lower, suggesting that room rates may be falling even though customers are visiting more often.

Unsurprisingly, customers with UAE-issued credit cards spent the most in the UAE last year. They were followed by visitors from the US, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar as the strong US dollar made it more expensive for visitors from non-dollar linked countries to shop.

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