Electronic card spending rose 5.1% in January, compared to the same month a year ago and Paymark chief executive Simon Tong says the pick-up indicates households may be loosening their purse strings.
The latest figures show spending in January rose by $191 million, or 5.1%.
Canterbury enjoyed the strongest growth, with card payments up by 8%. Waikato had growth of 7.6%.
Paymark, which handles threequarters of the country's electronic payments, says it's an encouraging start to the year after modest spending in December.
Chief executive Simon Tong said spending was strong in the building industry, which experienced double-digit growth, but accommodation providers and electronics retailers had below-average growth, with spending also weak in Southland and the West Coast.
The Retailers Association says it is encouraged by the overall growth, which it says has been spurred on by the recent good weather. Chief executive John Albertson says recent economic times have been tough for retailers.