You’ll need to update your browser so you can continue to log on to your online banking from 28th February. Update now.


Media Release

Spending intentions show how Aussies are adapting to the new normal

Spending intentions show how Aussies are adapting to the new normal

Online learning, and health and fitness spending intentions increase as Australians make changes to their lifestyle amid the coronavirus pandemic

The latest monthly Commonwealth Bank Household Spending Intentions (HSI) series data to the end of March 2020 published by the CBA Global Economic and Markets Research team indicates a clear and sustained response to the efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus, as Australians adapt to a new way of living. CBA Chief Economist Stephen Halmarick says the economic shutdown clearly impacted all HSI indicators, with most spending categories experiencing falls.

“When we look at spending intentions last month, we can see both entertainment and travel spending intentions declined sharply as the economic shutdown took hold, with both categories witnessing the lowest readings since the series began,” Mr Halmarick said.

“In contrast, retail, online learning and health and fitness spending intentions saw sharp rises as people prepared themselves for an extended shutdown of many parts of the economy,” Mr Halmarick added.

Mr Halmarick points out that while people were feeling confident with home buying intentions in March, the latest market data indicates residential property prices may fall by up to 10 per cent over the next six months*.

“Looking at our home buying intentions series in March 2020, people were feeling confident with spending intentions sitting close to all-time record highs. Since then we have seen turnover in the housing market decline significantly after public open houses and auctions were banned, with rising job insecurity also being a factor,” Mr Halmarick said.

Mr Halmarick says the latest HSI series also highlights how some Aussies are remaining focused on learning new skills online.

“After a large fall in February 2020, education spending intentions increased in March – as online and virtual schooling and higher education began to dominate,” Mr Halmarick said.

The series also showed shopping for a new car or commercial vehicle declined as people limited their discretionary activities, with the recovery previously seen in motor vehicle spending intentions stalling in March.

The HSI series offers a forward-looking view by analysing actual customer behaviour from CBA’s transactions data, along with household search activity from Google Trends. This combination adds to insights on prospective household spending trends in the Australian economy.

Monthly Household Spending Intentions 

Retail Spending Intentions
  • After a number of months of soft outcomes, retail spending intentions jumped substantially higher in March.
  • The surge in spending in March was likely related to consumer’s response to the developing coronavirus shutdown and a jump in spending on supermarket items, alcohol and household equipment and furnishings.

Travel Spending Intentions

  • Following initial signs of a slowdown in February, travel spending intentions declined sharply in March as the coronavirus shutdown and travel restrictions took hold.
  • The March travel HSI readings are the lowest, by a large margin, since the series began.
  • The ongoing shutdown of key sectors of the economy, the effective closing of the borders and the government directive to ‘stay at home’, could be expected to weigh on the travel intentions HSI for a number of months.

Home Buying Spending Intentions

  • Home buying intentions declined marginally in March, but remained near record highs.
  • The RBA’s substantial monetary policy easing over March has seen mortgage interest rates fall and this would (under normal circumstances) be expected to support buying intentions.

Education Spending Intentions

  • Along with travel, the education sector is particularly exposed to the negative effects of coronavirus. A significant decline in the education HSI in February was seen.
  • The education HSI picked-up in March, however, as ‘on-line’ and ‘virtual’ schooling and higher education began to dominate.

Entertainment Spending Intentions

  • As with the travel HSI, the coronavirus shutdown and the ‘stay at home’ requirements have seen the entertainment HSI decline in March.
  • The March entertainment HSI reading is the lowest in the history of the HSI and well below the February reading.

Motor Vehicles Spending Intentions

  • The HSI readings for motor vehicles showed a distinct turn up in spending intentions from late in 2019 – which then extended into early 2020.
  • This improvement was generally related to the ‘wealth-effect’ from the gains in the housing market and house prices.
  • However, this improvement partly reversed in March as the coronavirus shutdown made shopping for a new car or commercial vehicle challenging.

Health & Fitness Spending Intentions

  • After an initial downturn related to the bushfires in February, the health and fitness HSI jumped sharply high in March.
  • The increase in the health and fitness HSI may be related to spending intentions on medical needs and the desire to create ‘home gyms’ and/or undertake ‘virtual’ personal training activities in the coronavirus shutdown period.

Notes for Editors:

* See the CBA Global Economic & Markets Research note ‘Australian residential property prices to fall by 10% over the next six months’ by Head of Australian Economics Gareth Aird, dated Friday 17 April 2020.

About our monthly Household Spending Intentions series

The approach focuses on Australian households and their spending intentions. Employing near real-time spending readings from CBA’s household transactions data and combining them with relevant search information from Google Trends was used to map the data results on consumer spending. Google Trends is a publically available service that enables people to explore search trends around the world. These searches provide insights into what consumers are doing/researching on the Internet and what their spending intentions are. CBA’s Household Spending Intentions series is published on the third Tuesday of every month. To find out more about the series, visit

Read the latest Household Spending Intentions report.

About our weekly CBA credit and debit card data

Our Global Economic & Markets Research team also analyse CBA credit and debit card spending on a weekly basis. The following table has been developed by the team and shows the latest credit and debit card spending, compared to weekly results from a year earlier.


Week ending 27 March

Week ending 3 April

Week ending 10 April

Week ending 17 April

Overall spending










Food goods (mostly grocery stores and supermarkets)





Food services (includes cafes and restaurants)










Alcohol goods (bottle shops)





Alcohol services (pubs, hotels, etc)





Recreation (includes accommodation, air travel, travel services)





Transport (includes public transport)





Household furnishings & equipment





Apparel (clothing and footwear)





Source: CBA Global Economic & Markets Research notes ‘CBA card spend – week ending 27 March, 3 April, 10 April and 17 April’.

Notes for card spending for week ending 17 April 2020:

  • Over the week ending 17 April, spending was down 4 per cent and 32 per cent for retail and non-retail goods respectively and spending was lower across most categories (household furnishings and equipment the exception), compared to the same week last year.
  • While total spending over the week ending 17 April was down 18 per cent compared to a year ago, the level of spending was similar to the previous week, after large falls in the three weeks prior.
  • The timing of the Easter public holidays does have impacts on spending within the categories, so analysis of spending by category need to be interpreted with caution for the week ending 17 April.
  • Refer to the infographic developed by the Global Economic & Markets Research team for week ending 17 April.

General note:

  • Weekly CBA credit and debit card spend data is derived from transaction authorisations to give a near real‑time view. This means that cancelled authorisations, refunds, reversals, etc will not be included.  


The ‘CBA Household Spending Intentions’ series and “CBA credit and debit card spend” reports provide general market-related information, and are not intended to be an investment research report. These reports have been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation (including the capacity to bear loss), knowledge, experience or needs. Before acting on the information in these reports you should consider the appropriateness and, if necessary seek appropriate professional or financial advice, including tax and legal advice. The data used in the ‘CBA Household Spending Intentions’ series is a combination of the CBA Data and Google Trends™ data. Google Trends is a trademark of Google LLC. Where ‘CBA data’ is cited, this refers to the Bank proprietary data that is sourced from the Bank’s internal systems and may include, but not be limited to, credit card transaction data, merchant facility transaction data and applications for credit. The Bank takes reasonable steps to ensure that its proprietary data used is accurate and any opinions, conclusions or recommendations are reasonably held or made as at the time of compilation of this report. As the statistics take into account only the Bank’s data, no representation or warranty is made as to the completeness of the data and it may not reflect all trends in the market. All customer data used or represented in this report is anonymous and aggregated before analysis and is used and disclosed in accordance with the Commonwealth Bank Group’s Privacy Policy Statement.


Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL 234945.

Full disclosures and disclaimers.