American consumers are ready to ring Santa’s bell this year. A new survey reveals that consumer holiday spending will rise for the fifth straight year. According to the 2000 American Express Retail Index, consumers will spend an average of $1,684 on holiday related expenses, an 8% increase over 1999. AmEx says it found that budgets across every category of holiday spending are at their highest levels since the survey was introduced in 1995. On average, consumers said they expect to spend $1,161 for gifts, $197 for entertainment, $154 on travel, $88 on decorations and $84 on other holiday related expenses. Clothing is expected to top holiday shopping lists in 2000, cited by 60% of consumers, followed by gift certificates and money (43%), music, tapes, CDs and movies (42%), toys and games (37%), books/magazine subscriptions (35%), electronics/appliances (33%), perfume/cologne (31%) and home furnishings/decorative items (24%). In the search for gifts, the average shopper will visit nine stores this holiday season. Seventy-six percent of consumers will shop at malls, 72% will visit department stores, and 58% will shop at discount department stores. When it comes to shopping online, 34% of consumers said they plan to use the Internet in some way this year — either to comparison shop, make purchases, or send holiday e-cards — compared to 26% last year. In addition, for the fifth straight year, more shoppers said they plan to make holiday gift purchases online. Fifteen percent of all holiday shoppers will make purchases online, a 3% increase over 1999, and a fivefold increase since 1995 when only 3% of consumers said they plan to purchase gifts online. To pay for holiday purchases, shoppers will use a combination of cash (78%), credit cards (59%), checks (43%), and ATM/debit cards (21%). For more information on American Express visit: www.americanexpress.com.