Chasing Credit Card Rewards Points

30 July 2019

Everyone dreams of free business class seats to Europe. But for most people, the cushy seat with leg room and a glass of champagne will remain just that – a dream. Rewards programs provide a glimmer of hope by allowing us to use points, not money, to spend big. However, they can encourage us to buy more than we usually would. How far are we willing to go to earn points? Finder surveyed 1,200 Canadian consumers to uncover Canadians’ point-chasing habits.

Are Canadians obsessed with credit card rewards points?

It turns out almost three in four, or 22.3 million, Canadian adults admitted to using their credit cards solely for the points in the last year. With an average spend of $3,735 per person, that means points chasers have contributed an estimated $83.2 billion to the economy.

How do Canadians chase rewards points?

Canadians are most likely to try and earn credit card points by purchasing food and drink, with an average spend of $1,162 in this category. With many grocery stores providing easy options to build up rewards points, grocery shopping is an easy way to build up your points balance.

Canadians have also spent big on household items, like soft furnishings and decorations, with your average Joe spending roughly $489 just so they could earn some extra points.

Other points-seeking purchases include technology and electronics ($368), clothing and accessories ($352), shoes ($189) and cosmetics and fragrances ($118). Canadians also spent around $860 on “other” purchases.

Men are chasing more

Interestingly, men are using their credit cards for points more than women are. Around 78% of men are using their cards just for the points, compared to 72% of women. And they’re spending more. On average, men spend about $4,421, while women spend $3,136.

Men spend more on food, with an average spend of $1,283 compared to the ladies’ $1,057. They also spend more on technology/electronics, with an average spend of $436, compared to women’s $309.

We’re all familiar with the stereotype that women love their shoes (and will spend big on them), but it turns out men spend quite a bit more than women. Men spent $222 in the last year, while women spent a more modest $161. Perhaps rewards points are the extra incentive boys need to hand over their plastic!

West Coast chase the most

It seems those on the West Coast are the most likely to spend for the rewards, with 81% of West Coasters admitting to doing so, compared to 75% of people in Central Canada and the Prairie Provinces, and just 71% of people in the Atlantic region. West Coasters are also willing to part with the most cash, with an average spend of $4,746. Those in the Atlantic region spend the least, at just $3,383.

Spend by generation

Young people are often singled out for trying to keep up with the Joneses, but it’s people aged 45-54 actually spend the most chasing points. They forked out over $4,000 on average in the last year, compared to the $3,103 people aged 25-34 spent. Canadians aged 18-24 spent even less on their cards for the points, at just $1,892.

Are rewards programs worth it?

Credit cards can offer incredible rewards perks, but whether a card or reward program is right for you will depend on your personal circumstances, income and savings goals.

Before deciding on a rewards program, map out how much you’ll need to spend before you see any of the benefits. When choosing a card, make sure to read the fine print on any limits and restrictions for redeeming points and any fees you might incur. The potential for travel perks, cashback and bonus points could cause you to spend more than normal. To avoid overspending, only use your points credit card for purchases you would normally make. For example, purchases like your weekly grocery bill or petrol.

Things to look out for when choosing a rewards credit card:

  • High interest
  • Expensive annual fees
  • Temptation to spend
  • Airline and flight restrictions
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