Nearly 1 in 7 Consumers Have Paid for Gasoline in Installments

Commerce Dept: Gas Spending up, Car Spending Down

Struggling consumers are relying on installment plans for common purchases such as groceries or restaurants to stretch their budgets and make ends meet.

With fuel prices having reached a historic peak during the last year and a half, gasoline has become one of the most common expenses consumers resort to paying in installments. Although gas prices were up over the summer, gasoline inflation seems to have moderated. However, the trend toward paying for gas in installments may continue.

What consumers buy with installment plans

By the Numbers

The PYMNTS Intelligence report “Installment Plans Becoming a Key Part of Shopper’s Toolkit” revealed that among the roughly 60% of consumers who used some type of installment payment plan in the 12 months before being surveyed, nearly 24% did so to purchase gasoline, which makes 15% of all consumers. The study drew from a survey of more than 2,500 U.S. consumers in August and examined the use of installment plans, including general-purpose credit cards, store and merchant cards, and buy now, pay later (BNPL) plans.

The Data in Context

As reported in another PYMNTS Intelligence study, U.S. consumers pay for 3.3 products on average through installment plans. The figure remains consistent across most demographic groups, regardless of financial status or generation.

Consumers rely on installment payment plans not only for large expenses that occur occasionally such as appliances, vehicle maintenance or leisure travel, but also for essential items like groceries and clothing, per the data. Gasoline, which is considered a high-rotation consumer product, is part of this group of essential expenses, and nearly 1 in 7 consumers turned to installment plans to pay fuel bills in August.

There is a correlation between high prices and the use of split-pay plans, especially among struggling consumers. To put some numbers in context, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, gasoline prices were up 19% between the end of 2022 and August 2023, the time PYMNTS surveyed consumers.

Although general-purpose credit card installments are the preferred option to buy gasoline, gas stations may benefit from consumers’ willingness to use store cards. Specifically, nearly 15% of consumers purchasing gasoline in installments did it with one of these cards. With gasoline prices slowly adjusting but still high, the willingness of consumers to use store cards for gasoline purchases presents an opportunity for merchants to drive loyalty and foster sales by offering specific installment plans.