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October Spending Trends: Learning to Expect the Unexpected

CO-OP Payments Trends Report (Spending Data from October 1-31)

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, California – With the holiday shopping season in full swing, October spending trends were largely business as usual in categories like Travel, Sports & Recreation and Retail. At the same time, a few head-scratching trends began to emerge, including a softening of Amazon spending.

A fitful economic recovery has dampened consumer spending behavior all year long, and October was no exception. Although economic indicators for the month were generally positive, growing worries about creeping inflation became an all-out alarm as the Consumer Price Index rose 6.2 percent in October, the fastest monthly increase in over 30 years.

According to CO-OP member credit union spending data, consumers spent more in the Digital Goods and Retail merchant categories in October as the holiday shopping season ramped up. Meanwhile, Education spending declined as students finally settled into their routines on campus and in the classroom.

Here are some of the key spending trends CO-OP’s SmartGrowth experts are watching closely this month:

#1: Slow Shipping Driving Consumers from Amazon To Other Merchants

Perhaps the biggest surprise in CO-OP’s credit union spending data is a recent flattening of spending within the Amazon/Bookstores merchant category. The online retail juggernaut has seemingly hit some potholes on its path of growth. Amazon’s third quarter earnings disappointed investors, and CO-OP’s data, month-over-month, showed the category as basically flat in October compared with the prior month – a shocking result considering Amazon announced early holiday deals in October this year, well ahead of Black Friday.

Meanwhile, the Digital Goods merchant category showed robust double-digit increases in both credit and debit for October versus the prior month.

Amazon’s softening trend can be chalked up to a combination of supply chain and labor shortages, which have caused noticeable shipping delays, even before the holiday shopping season gets fully underway. Coupled with the very high expectations the firm has established with its Prime members for delivering virtually any item, anywhere within two days, some shoppers are choosing to move their business elsewhere, either online or in-store, to get their products sooner.

“I wouldn’t expect the same concern with other online merchants, because nobody expects the service from others that they expect from Amazon,” said Beth Phillips, CO-OP Director of Strategic Portfolio Growth. So, if I’m going to shop at J. Crew, for example, I expect a longer delivery window, and I’m prepared for that. Amazon has set the bar so high for themselves, and it’s adversely affecting them now.”

In addition, Big Box retailers like Target and Walmart that benefit from having both large distribution networks of physical stores and a strong online presence currently have a leg up on Amazon. They are able to stock up on merchandise within certain categories preferred by their customer base.

“Target is focused on those items that people want to touch and feel and need sooner rather than later,” said John Patton, CO-OP Senior Payments Advisor. “The company is ordering those items in bulk and making sure they are available in their stores for pickup or local shipping.”

“Amazon is seeing competition that it’s probably never seen before or during the holiday season,” said Phillips. “Because if you search for something that’s popular right now on Amazon, you may be able to find it, but it may not be available with Prime shipping. This longer delivery window is driving consumers to other big box retailers, like Target and Walmart, where they can get their items sooner.”

#2: Meanwhile, Retail is Going Strong

Aside from Amazon’s struggles, the Retail sector overall is doing well. Merchants are seemingly benefitting from an early start to holiday sales, and consumers’ anxiety over whether they will be able to purchase the gifts and merchandise they most desire this season.

The Retail merchant category was up by double digits in both credit and debit in October versus the prior month, and has been on a steady growth trend since June.

#3: Expect the Unexpected

As has been the case since the start of the pandemic, the only rule surrounding spending trends is to expect the unexpected. In recent months, the still-dangerous Delta variant, rising inflation and frustrating supply chain issues have dampened economic growth.

At the same time, 2020’s high unemployment has morphed into this year’s labor shortage across many industries.

Yet, as the end of the year comes into view, the CO-OP SmartGrowth advisors are urging credit unions to take a cautious, but optimistic outlook. COVID cases are declining, and the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for school-aged children in early November. Hope for a return to pre-pandemic normalcy has never seemed closer.

“A lot of people are doing their holiday shopping, and even their grocery shopping earlier,” said Phillips. “Because of this, scarcity concerns are up, but at the end of the day, these worries may simply disappear.”

What Credit Unions Should Do Now

 As the traditional holiday season begins in earnest in November, credit unions should make sure their members have ready access to their preferred forms of payment, whether shopping in-store or online. Credit unions should activate their contactless and card-not-present (CNP) campaigns to ensure their credit and debit cards stay top of wallet throughout the season.

Month-Over-Month Category-Level Spending (Comparing October 2021 to September 2021)  Please note that the category spending below reflects month-over-month comparisons (rather than year-over-year), i.e., compares October 2021 with September 2021, rather than October 2021 and October 2020.

Credit Debit
Count Amount Interchange Count Amount Interchange
Category Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change Monthly Change
Amazon/Bookstores 2% 4% 2% 0% 1% -1%
Digital Goods 13% 10% 12% 14% 14% 11%
Dining & Entertainment 5% 6% 6% 3% 5% 5%
Education 0% -15% -14% 2% -12% -5%
Gas 3% 6% 6% 1% 4% 2%
Grocery 5% 7% 8% 4% 6% 5%
Lodging 0% 3% 4% -5% -4% -3%
Medical 3% 3% 3% 3% 2% 2%
Retail 11% 12% 12% 9% 10% 7%
Travel 8% 17% 17% 2% 3% 2%
Computers 4% 4% 3% 6% 12% 10%
Office 7% 11% 11% 0% 3% 5%
Campers & Camping -1% -2% 1% 0% -1% 0%
Home Improvement 1% 2% 3% -2% 0% -1%
Sports & Recreation -1% 1% 1% 10% 9% 9%

More information on the CO-OP SmartGrowth Consulting Team can be found here.


About CO-OP Financial Services

CO-OP Financial Services is a payments and financial technology company whose mission is ensuring the success of the credit union movement. CO-OP payments solutions, engagement services and strategic counsel help credit unions optimize member experiences to consistently provide seamless, personalized multi-channel offerings, while delivering secure, sophisticated fraud mitigation service. For more information, visit

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PSCU Payments Index – November Edition

November 18, 2021 – Today, PSCU – the nation’s premier payments credit union service organization (CUSO) – published the November edition of the PSCU Payments Index, the goal of which is to provide information and insights to help financial institutions make informed, strategic decisions on the road ahead.

In this month’s iteration, we see strong consumer purchasing during the initial weeks of the holiday shopping season, combined with mixed consumer sentiment on the state of the economy. As the Consumer Confidence Index posted the first increase in four months, workers remain in high demand with increasing pay and a steadily improving unemployment rate. This month, we present the first in a three-part Deep Dive into 2021 Holiday Spending.

“The holiday spending season got underway earlier than ever with Black Friday-style deals from major retailers showing up in early October,” said Yvonne Stelpflug, SVP, Advisors Plus at PSCU. “Strong consumer spending performance, including the first month of 2021 in which all sectors reported growth above 2019 levels for credit purchases, indicates that buyers are heeding the warnings of uncertainty as retailers grapple with supply chain difficulties and labor shortages. While the holiday season could be challenging for both retailers and consumers, we do anticipate strong demand and a rise in overall spend. In this month’s Deep Dive, we begin a three-part series on Holiday Spending to monitor ongoing trends throughout the 2021 holiday shopping season.”

A sampling of key takeaways from the September report includes:

  • Consumer spending remained strong for both credit and debit purchases as the Consumer Confidence Index increased in October, reversing a three-month downward trend.
  • Two positive indicators over the last month were centered around credit card usage. October marked the first month of 2021 in which all sectors reported growth above 2019 levels for credit card purchases, while the overall credit card delinquency rate has remained 61 basis points lower than 2019 results for two months, finishing at 1.32%.
  • Inflation increased again as the CPI-U for October rose to 6.2% year over year, now a 31-year high. The 0.9% increase over September included notable increases in energy costs. Continued inflationary pressures could prompt the Fed to raise interest rates in 2022.
  • Workers remain in short supply as many retailers are paying premiums for seasonal holiday staff. The unemployment rate fell to 4.6% in October as 531,000 jobs were added during the month. At the same time, the number of jobs created in August/September was adjusted upwards by 235,000 in total by the BLS.
  • From our Holiday Spending deep dive, Goods sector purchases were strong, with credit up 13.6% and debit up 9.5%. Retailers are luring shoppers in early as they work to ensure Black Friday is not rife with supply chain issues and staff shortages, which could lead to inventory problems, higher prices and shipping delays.

As the new realities of a post-pandemic economy begin to materialize and the PSCU Payments Index continues to evolve accordingly, you’ll see that we are now beginning to focus more on year-over-year changes and less on comparisons back to pre-pandemic 2019.

The full report is available for download here or can be shared as a PDF upon request. Additionally, feel free to subscribe here to receive updates when the PSCU Payments Index is published each month.

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Constellation Enables Seamless, Secure Data Aggregation for Credit Union Members

RALEIGH, N.C. – Nov. 9, 2021 – Constellation Digital Partners, the first open-development platform for credit union digital banking services, announced today the addition of a data aggregation service within its digital banking offering. The feature makes third-party financial institution account information accessible to any fintech’s service deployed on their platform at a fraction of the legacy cost.

Credit unions using the service can retrieve third party account data from data aggregation resources, which then passes the information to Constellation’s Accounts and Transaction Warehouses – to enable members to share their personal financial information safely and securely, among all other fintech services deployed on the Constellation platform. Members can benefit from their credit union being able to offer many different (fintech) services through the Constellation platform as their financial data and personal information is transferred securely, correctly and in real time.

To fully leverage the data aggregation, Constellation partnered with FinGoal, a company that builds data infrastructure and analytics for the fintech ecosystem. Now, when a member links an off-core account in one service, built by one developer, that data becomes available for that member in other services built by other developers. The data is made available to the credit union as well. FinGoal’s industry-first data aggregation and permission API removes user friction, normalizes data models, and represents a significant cost reduction.

“Harnessing the unique benefits of seamless integration and built-in security provided by the Constellation platform extends our own service’s capabilities.” said David Nohe, CEO of FinGoal. “Credit unions who have built tools and reporting through the Constellation platform for bank-held data will immediately get access to third-party account data linked by their members.”

Data aggregation is foundational to members’ ease-of-use and enhancing their digital experience. Until now it was a costly and time-consuming effort to ensure integration of a credit union’s fintech-developed services, thus difficult to pursue. However, Constellation’s solution benefits both credit unions and fintechs by enabling their ability to deliver on member expectations.

“Providing aggregated account data was made possible with FinGoal’s APIs – which is proof that collaborative development at the platform level is a strategic advantage,” said Constellation President and CEO Kris Kovacs. “Unlike legacy technologies, we can ensure services’ interoperability because innovations such as this are native to our platform, and not an after-thought.”

Interested credit unions and fintech developers can request a platform demo or inquire about Constellation’s service development process and investment opportunities, by visiting

To discover certified services already available on the Constellation platform, or to see which fintechs are actively developing services, visit



About Constellation Digital Partners, LLC:

Constellation has created the first open development platform dedicated to credit union and fintech app development. This patented, secure, and flexible cloud-based ecosystem provides credit unions and innovative app developers the ideal platform to deliver safe, reliable, and next-generation digital financial service experiences. Credit unions now have the freedom to compete, innovate, and thrive in the financial services industry. First, by redefining what they offer, and second by delivering digital financial services in a way that places members squarely at the center of their business strategy.


About FinGoal

Banks and Credit Unions count on FinGoal data and analytics to understand their individual end-users on a human level—personal values, life events, and current motivations. FinGoal believes if credit unions understood their individual members as deeply as social networks do, one billion more people around the world would have healthy financial breathing room. FinGoal is on a mission to make that happen as the most trusted infrastructure for hyper-personalized financial services. Learn more at

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CO-OP Announces THINK 22

CO-OP Financial Services


Event Promises to Help Credit Union Leaders “Rethink Everything;”

Registration at Early Bird Rate Available Through November 30

For Release on November 16, 2021:

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, California – CO-OP Financial Services announced today it will resume its flagship THINK in-person event, with an immersive conference convening in Chicago this coming May.

Since the global outbreak of COVID-19, the payments fintech has hosted a series of virtual THINK events, including online Forums, Master Classes and Power Lunches. The virtual events attracted more than 5,000 attendees in 2020 and 2021.

THINK 22, taking place May 2-6, 2022, at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Chicago, is open for registration immediately by visiting The Early Bird rate of $999 remains available until November 30. After that date, a “Fall Special” rate of $1,299 continues until January 3, 2022.

“Going virtual maintained strategic momentum – and a much-needed sense of optimism – for the hundreds of leaders who regularly attend our annual THINK event,” said Samantha Paxson, Chief Experience Officer for CO-OP. “Our virtual events introduced thousands of leaders to THINK for the first time. We’re excited that this year’s participants will experience THINK in its truest form – an in-person event that curates revolutionary thinking from around the world to ignite transformational change.”

THINK 22 will feature headline speakers from a wide range of backgrounds. Each will share best practices and insights around the continuing theme of “Rethink Everything.” As credit unions emerge from a period of extraordinary change, the movement has an unparalleled opportunity to reimagine everything from digitization to the credit union service model – all in a bid to re-energize efforts to earn primary financial relationships with more members.


Ken Kocienda and Sallie Krawcheck First Keynote Speakers Announced for THINK 22

CO-OP is also announcing THINK 22’s first keynote speakers:

Ken Kocienda. Kocienda is Product Architect for Humane, a San Francisco-based start-up company focused on maximizing the user experience with personal technology. From 2001 to 2017, Kocienda was a software engineer and designer at Apple, and he is the author of the 2019 book, “Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs.”

Sallie Krawcheck. Krawcheck is the CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, a tech-first financial company built by women for women to help women earn more money from their first dollar through to private wealth services. Ellevest has been named at #24 on CNBC’s top 50 “Disruptor” list and #14 on LinkedIn’s 50 “Most Sought-After Startups.” Prior to Ellevest, Krawcheck built a successful career on Wall Street: She was the CEO of Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, US Trust, Citi Private Bank, Sanford C. Bernstein and CFO for Citigroup.


Networking Activities Alongside Exclusive Research, Keynotes and In-Depth Learning

According to Paxson, attendees can expect access to exclusive research, memorable keynote presentations and credit union-specific Power Sprints and Master Classes, as well as rekindled social events that give THINK its can’t-miss quality.

“There has long been a healthy tension between familiarity and newness inside the credit union industry, and THINK works because it nurtures both,” said Paxson. “Networking events honor years-long relationships and inspiring strategy sessions champion a new outlook on the future. We have all missed the specialness that comes from uniting hundreds of credit union hearts and minds in one place, and we are so excited to get back to it.”

CO-OP is committed to meeting the highest safety standards possible. THINK 22 will follow all CDC COVID-19 protocols and location-specific requirements.

For more information and to register immediately, visit



About CO-OP Financial Services
CO-OP Financial Services is a payments and financial technology company whose mission is ensuring the success of the credit union movement. CO-OP payments solutions, engagement services and strategic counsel help credit unions optimize member experiences to consistently provide seamless, personalized multi-channel offerings, while delivering secure, sophisticated fraud mitigation service. For more information, visit

Bill Prichard, APR
Director, Public Relations
CO-OP Financial Services
(909) 532-9416


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PSCU Collaborates with CPI Card Group to Reduce Plastic Waste

St. Petersburg, Fla. — (Nov. 15, 2021) — In conjunction with National Recycling Day, recognized on Nov. 15, PSCU – the nation’s premier payments credit union service organization (CUSO) – has announced it is collaborating with CPI Card Group Inc. (Nasdaq: PMTS) to offer cards that reduce first-use plastic by incorporating recycled plastic into the card body.

According to a CPI survey conducted by an independent research firm, 91% of debit and credit cardholders indicate they are concerned about plastic waste in landfills, and 73% of respondents say it is important that their financial institution is environmentally conscious. In the next several months, PSCU will begin providing Owner credit unions with access to the following CPI products:

  • CPI’s Earthwise™ upcycled payment card, which is aimed at reducing first-use plastic and reusing plastic waste that might otherwise enter a landfill. The Earthwise™ Recycled PVC card can contain up to 85% upcycled plastic, depending on design.
  • CPI’s Second Wave® payment card is the first payment card featuring a core made with recovered ocean-bound plastic. CPI estimates more than a ton of plastic will be diverted from entering the world’s oceans, waterways and shorelines for every 1 million Second Wave® payment cards produced.

“Our goal in offering products like Earthwise™ and Second Wave® is to reduce first-use plastic in payment cards, either by diverting plastic waste from entering the world’s oceans or by using post-industrial plastic that might otherwise have entered a landfill,” said Terra Grantham, vice president of Strategy and ESG of CPI. “We want to lead the payments industry towards reducing first-use plastic in conjunction with delivering a world-class cardholder experience for consumers. With the help of CUSOs like PSCU, we are getting one step closer to driving a meaningful impact towards more eco-focused card products.”

PSCU is working to minimize environmental impact and reduce its carbon footprint where possible. The CUSO’s sustainability efforts include instituting and promoting recycling efforts, reducing consumption, reusing materials and choosing more eco-friendly products, among other initiatives.

“It is clear that financial institutions and their cardholders care about the environment and are looking to partners across the industry for help with adopting the mantra of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,’” said Cody Banks, vice president of Payment & Fraud Solutions at PSCU. “PSCU is proud to play an active role in helping mitigate the payments industry’s environmental waste, and we look forward to working alongside CPI to provide more eco-focused products to our Owner credit unions and their members.”


About PSCU

PSCU, the nation’s premier payments CUSO, supports the success of more than 1,800 financial institutions representing more than 6.9 billion transactions annually. Committed to service excellence and focused on innovation, PSCU’s payment processing, risk management, data and analytics, loyalty programs, digital banking, marketing, strategic consulting and mobile platforms help deliver possibilities and seamless member experiences. Comprehensive, 24/7/365 member support is provided by contact centers located throughout the United States. The origin of PSCU’s model is collaboration and scale, and the company has leveraged its influence on behalf of credit unions and their members for more than 40 years. Today, PSCU provides an end-to-end, competitive advantage that enables credit unions to securely grow and meet evolving consumer demands. For more information, visit