Key takeaways

  • Americans plan to spend an average of $875 on gifts and other holiday shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
  • Where you live can have an impact on the amount you spend on your holiday shopping, with Detroit ranking as the best city for local holiday shoppers and Seattle the worst.
  • Whatever you spend this holiday season, it’s important to be cautious about overextending yourself and to only make purchases with credit cards that you know you’ll be able to pay in full.

The holidays are a great time for shopping, and credit cards can certainly make it easier to purchase gifts and celebrate this magical season. However, it’s important to not overstretch your finances, especially considering that credit card interest rates for those carrying a balance are higher than 22 percent, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

Interestingly, a recent Bankrate study found that where you live might impact how much you’ll spend on holiday shopping. If you live in a more shopper-friendly city, you might have to spend less — and potentially take on less credit card debt — for your holiday shopping. For instance, although U.S. residents plan to spend an average of $875 on holiday-related purchases, residents of Detroit (ranked the best city for holiday shopping) would spend only $840.88 to buy the same items.

Understanding these nuances is especially important because credit card debt has been going up in the last year, hitting a high of $1.08 trillion in the third quarter, per the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Further, a Bankrate survey finds that 47 percent of consumers are “revolvers,” carrying credit card debt over from month to month, instead of paying it off each billing cycle.

Holiday shopping ranking and credit card debt data

Consider the following holiday shopping and credit card debt data points:

Bankrate insight
  • Detroit is the No. 1 best city for holiday shoppers, according to a recent Bankrate analysis of purchasing power compared to the national average. (Bankrate)
  • Of U.S. adults, more than half — 53 percent — say they’ll use a credit card for holiday shopping this year. (Bankrate)
  • 23 percent of holiday shoppers say they expect to strain their budgets this season, while 33 percent of holiday shoppers say inflation will change the way they shop. (Bankrate)
  • Among the strategies U.S. shoppers say they’ll use to save money this holiday season, 42 percent anticipate buying fewer items. (Bankrate)

Beyond these statistics, where you live may play a role in how much you spend this holiday season.

Credit card debt and holiday shopping ranking

Americans are expecting to spend some $875 on gifts, decorations and other holiday shopping this year, according to a recent consumer survey from the National Retail Federation. While holiday overspending can lead to credit card debt, where you live can affect how far you can stretch your dollars — and how much debt you end up taking on.

Recently, Bankrate analyzed the top 25 largest metropolitan cities in the U.S. for their retail affordability, residential purchasing power and retail accessibility, compared to the national average Americans plan to spend on gifts and holiday items.

According to our findings, among the five best cities for holiday shopping — Detroit, MI; Boston, MA; Philadelphia, PA; Charlotte, NC; and Baltimore, MD — shoppers will spend a median $868 to buy the equivalent of $875 worth of goods. In the five worst cities for holiday shopping — San Francisco, CA; Miami, FL; Riverside, CA; Los Angeles, CA; and Seattle, WA — that number is a whopping $961.63.

Specific factors Bankrate analyzed when ranking the 25 best and worst cities for holiday shoppers include:

Key terms

The amount of money required to buy the same bundle of goods and services, including total sales tax (state and city), as the $875 national average in 2023.
Purchasing power
A city’s median income after accounting for housing costs and state credit card balances, as well as sales, state and city tax.
Accessibility of retail stores
the number of retail stores per resident, as well as how many retail stores are available compared to other types of establishments.

From this analysis, Detroit emerges as the best city for locals to engage in holiday shopping, thanks to its affordability and the accessibility of its retail outlets, as well as the state of Michigan’s low 6 percent sales tax rate. In the Motor City, residents will spend $840.88 to buy the equivalent of $875 in goods and services.

On the other end is Seattle, which ranks as the worst city for local holiday shopping. Seattle residents must spend $1,002.75 to purchase the $875 national average worth of holiday spending. This is because the Emerald City scores low for affordability and retail accessibility, due in part to a high 10.25 percent sales tax and high sales prices when compared to other cities.

Credit Card
Bankrate insight
Of U.S. adults surveyed by Bankrate, 43 percent of American adults cite unexpected or emergency expenses as the top reason they carry credit card debt. Another 25 percent say that everyday expenses have added to their overall credit card debt.

Pros and cons of using a credit card for holiday shopping

With more than half of consumers saying they’ll use a credit card for holiday shopping this year, it’s a good idea to weigh the convenience of credit cards against their risks before you shop.

Consider the following benefits of shopping with your credit card:

  • Credit cards act as a short-term, interest-free loan if you can pay off your statement in full each month.
  • Cash back rewards can lower the cost of purchases you’re going to make anyway.
  • Points and miles you accrue with your rewards card can be redeemed for discounted holiday airline travel or hotel stays.
  • Extended warranties can protect your high-ticket purchases beyond the manufacturer’s coverage.
  • Fraud protections make cards safer than carrying cash.

At the same time, there are many reasons to avoid using credit cards for your holiday shopping: 

  • The convenience of credit cards can lead to overspending, if you aren’t careful. Research shows that buying on credit activates the brain’s reward center, which can affect your ability to make rational purchase decisions.
  • With average card interest rates for those carrying a balance at an all-time high of 22.77 percent, you could end up paying far more than you plan if you aren’t able to pay off your monthly statement in full.
  • Unpaid or late credit card bills can result in high fees and penalties. And because your payment history makes up 35 percent of your credit score, you could face a blow to your credit as well.

On the whole, though, credit cards can be a good resource to maximize for your holiday shopping — as long as you can pay off your balance when it’s due.

Maximize the cards you already have and consider signing up for a new one to turn your holiday shopping into a sign-up bonus that can score you some additional cash back or travel points. — Ted Rossman | Bankrate senior analyst

Strategies for responsible holiday shopping

The last thing you want lingering after the magic of the holidays is high-interest credit card debt.

To avoid overspending with your credit cards this holiday season, first understand how much you can comfortably spend. Knowing your budget can help you strategically plan your shopping, giving you time to use cash back apps like Rakuten or issuer portals like Capital One Shopping to save through coupon codes — and avoid impulse purchases. And don’t forget to explore any personalized offers through your issuer, like Amex Offers, which offers cash back on purchases at eligible retailers.

“Best of all, seek to stack discounts,” says Rossman. “Combine store promotions with multiple additional strategies for added impact. For example, you could combine a store promotion with a rewards credit card and an online shopping portal for three ways to save on the same purchase.”


  • Americans are forecast to spend an average of $875 on holiday shopping in 2023, according to the National Retail Federation. This includes spending on gifts, decorations, food and other essential seasonal purchases. As a whole, Americans are expected to spend between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion over the 2023 holiday shopping season.
  • Synonymous with holiday shopping deals, Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, according to digital data company Sensormatics, with Super Saturday — December 23 — expected to take second place.
  • The average credit card balance among Americans is $6,365, according to credit reporting agency Experian. More than half of holiday shoppers said they plan to use a credit card this holiday season, according to a Bankrate survey earlier this year.