At least 70 percent of people have one or more credit cards, according to data from the Federal Reserve. Additionally, there were 374 million open credit card accounts in November 2019. With so many credit card owners, we wanted to find out how Americans use their credit card rewards.
We used Google Surveys to analyze data from over 2,000 respondents to find out. Surprisingly, we concluded that while rewards and points are everyone’s favorite part of credit card ownership, over half of Americans aren’t actively monitoring the points in their accounts. As a result, they could be losing a significant amount of money due to expired or lost points.
Key takeaway: 1 in 5 Americans say points are the most valuable benefit of credit card ownership, but 52% don’t actively track their credit card points.
20% Say Rewards are the Best Part of Credit Card Ownership
Americans say reward points are the most valuable benefit of credit card ownership, with 20 percent of respondents choosing this answer choice. Other studies have had similar results, with cash rebates and gift cards being named as card owners’ favorite kinds of rewards.
Respondents seem less interested in other credit card benefits. Specifically:
- 16% say the ability to build credit is the most valuable benefit of a credit card.
- 12% value the additional security credit cards offer (compared to debit cards) over other benefits.
- 9% say the ability to make big purchases is the best part of credit card ownership.
Different age groups have varying opinions when it comes to choosing the most valuable credit card benefit.
Adults 65+ are most likely to value the added security a credit card offers, with 17 percent of this age group choosing security as the most valuable benefit. In comparison, only 8 percent of adults ages 18–24 value security over other credit card benefits.
Adults ages 18–44 are more interested in the ability to build credit than earning points and rewards like cash rebates. Younger adults’ interest in building credit makes sense when considering average credit scores by age – adults ages 20–39 have an average credit score of 667.5, placing them in the “fair” range of scores.
Adults 45+ are more likely to value the ability to make expensive purchases over other benefits, with an average of 12 percent choosing this benefit. In comparison, only 5 percent of adults ages 18–24 place the most value on this benefit.
When it comes to credit cards and their perks, it seems like the most valuable benefit is all up to the individual’s needs and stage of life.
Many Americans Could Be Losing Their Reward Points
Despite rewards and points being named the most valuable benefit of credit card ownership, more than half of Americans admit they don’t actively track their points.
For some major credit cards, points don’t expire as long as the card remains active. Other credit cards have timelines for how long points remain valid. This means that for the 52 percent of Americans who don’t monitor their points, serious money could be lost. In fact, on some of the most highly ranked rewards cards, failing to monitor rewards could mean missing out on free airline tickets, free meals, and thousands of dollars in redeemable points.
Even if a credit card’s points don’t expire, that doesn’t mean they won’t disappear. According to Creditcards.com, there are several ways you can lose out on points already earned, including missing a monthly payment (even once), neglecting to use the account often enough, or filing for bankruptcy.
When we asked Americans whether they actively track their credit card points, the response was a resounding “no.” In fact, another study found that 22 percent of cash-back credit card owners hadn’t redeemed any of their points in a year or more.
Even so, some credit card owners seem to be more on top of their rewards than others.
Adults 45+ are more likely to monitor their credit card points – 30 percent of respondents in this age group report that they do actively track rewards in their account. Adults 65+ are the most likely to say they track their points (34 percent).
There seems to be a disconnect between what benefits Americans want from their credit cards and what they’re actually doing with those benefits. Even though respondents in our survey say rewards are the most popular feature, over half aren’t actively keeping track of the points they have available.
If you have a cash-back or rewards credit card, it’s important to actively monitor the status of your points. Doing so could set you up to have more money in your pocket at the end of the month and a brighter financial future.