Boomers Reach for Credit Cards, Millennials Lean More on BNPL to Pay for Leisure Travel

couple at airport

Credit cards continue to be the preferred choice among consumers for financing their leisure travel expenses, with approximately two-thirds of those who traveled or intended to travel this summer opting to use credit cards for their payments.

This is one of the key findings in “The Credit Economy: How Consumers Financed Their Summer Travel,” a collaboration between PYMNTS Intelligence and i2c that draws on a survey of nearly 3,400 consumers to examine consumer behaviors and attitudes related to summer travel spending and explore what drives interest in using credit cards and buy now, pay later (BNPL) to pay for travel among different generations.

chart, how consumers finance travel

According to insights detailed in the study, while credit cards remain the preferred choice for the majority of travelers, there are distinct differences between older and younger generations. Older generations tend to opt for credit cards, while the youngest generations lean more toward BNPL options.

In fact, 76% of baby boomers and seniors preferred credit cards, while only 53% of Generation Z consumers did. Gen X consumers and millennials fell in between, with 67% and 63% respectively using credit cards for travel expenses.

In contrast, Gen Z and millennials displayed a higher inclination toward using BNPL options for their travel payments, given their attraction to its ability to manage cash flow and offer better payment terms. The study found that 30% of millennials and 29% of Gen Z consumers used or planned to use BNPL for their summer travel expenses, compared to just 5% of baby boomers and seniors.

Additionally, the use of credit cards increased with annual income and across generations. For instance, individuals earning over $100,000 annually showed a preference for credit cards, with 73% choosing them for travel payments. In contrast, 53% of those earning less than $50,000 opted for credit cards.

For those who chose not to use credit products, debit cards and cash were the popular alternatives. The study revealed that 61% of consumers used debit cards, while 60% used cash to pay for their summer travel expenses.