T&E Spending in Amex Network Nears Pre-Pandemic Levels

Spending volume on American Express commercial cards grew to $ 136 billion in the first quarter, above 2019 levels, as large and global clients are beginning to show signs of business travel recovery, executives said in an earnings call.

Small and medium-sized business spending accounted for $ 115 billion of that volume, an increase of 30 percent year over year and 26 percent versus the first quarter of 2019. The $ 21 billion in spending by large and global clients marked an increase of 42 percent year over year, though it was 34 percent lower than volumes in the same period of 2019.

Adjusted for foreign currency exchange effects, total T&E spending across the American Express network was 88 percent of the levels of the first quarter of 2019, and T&E spending among small and medium-sized clients was at a similar level. Large and global corporate T&E spending was at 38 percent of 2019 levels, but CFO Jeff Campbell said signs of growth became more apparent for that group near the end of the quarter.

“T&E spending did show a dip in January and early February due to the [Covid-19] omicron variant, but spending rebounded tremendously, reflecting pent-up travel demand, and essentially reached 2019 levels for the first time since the start of the pandemic in the month of March, “Campbell said.” Overall, we are pleased with the growth momentum we see across the board in our spending volumes, which is tracking in line with our expectations for both the year and for our long-term expectations. “

US consumer T&E spending was 20 percent above 2019 levels on an adjusted basis for the quarter.

Across all T&E spending, spending on airlines was up 245 percent year over year in the quarter but remained 34 percent below 2019 levels. Lodging spending was up 108 percent year over year and down 22 percent compared to 2019.

Campbell said business travel is driving some of that increase, with more spending in premium cabins and higher-end hotels. “Your average business travel purchase is, of course, much higher than the average consumer purchase,” he said.

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