Chasing points |

Chasing points

Nearly 1 in 3 of us spend money on our credit cards just to get their rewards or benefits.

Credit card companies can offer powerful rewards — cash back, free trips and discounts among them. But a card’s rewards can be so attractive, an estimated 71.7 million of us — or 29.2% of American adults — swipe, dip or tap just for the cash, points or miles our purchases earn us.

Our recent study reveals that Americans spend an average $2,453.10 a person chasing points, adding up to an estimated $175.8 billion in total. We’re most likely to spend this money on clothing and accessories (89.4%), but food and drinks (88.4%) and household items (62.0%) aren’t far behind.

Let’s break it down


At 30.9% of those surveyed, men are more likely than women to spend money just for a credit card’s rewards program, whereas only 27.6% of women do the same. They also spend almost double that of women, racking up an average $3,021.31 to a woman’s $1,852.87.

Women are more likely to spend this money on clothing and accessories (95.1%, compared with 84.0% of men) and food and drink (89.4%, compared with 87.3% of men). Men, on the other hand, are more than twice as likely to use their credit cards on tech — 66.7% of men, compared with 31.7% of women. They’re also three times as likely as women (10.6%) to spend on music at 27.7%.


Baby boomers are least likely to buy into this phenomenon. Only 24.3% have used a credit card simply for its rewards, compared with 30.2% of Gen Xers and 36.5% of millennials.

Unlike with gender, you won’t find a dramatic difference among generations in how much they spend on cards for rewards: Gen Xers splurge the most at $2,942.57 per person, followed by baby boomers ($2,201.37) and millennials ($2,047.18)

Baby boomers are most likely to spend for rewards on food and drinks and household items. But they’re least likely to spend on clothing — the category in which Gen Xers are most likely to spend.

Gen Xers are also most likely of the generations to use their cards to spend on tech and electronics, while millennials prefer to buy cosmetics and fragrances, literature and music.

LikelihoodAmount spentWhat they’re most likely to buy
Millennials36.5%$2,047.18Cosmetics and fragrances, music, literature
Gen Xers30.2%$2,942.57Clothing and accessories, shoes, technology and electronics
Baby boomers24.3%$2,201.37Food and drinks, household items

Household income

As for household income, you’ll find no surprises: Those with the highest incomes are more likely to spend on a credit card to take advantage of its rewards program. They’re also spending the most, with those earning a household income of $150,000 or more spending an average $4,601.90 per person.

Are rewards programs worth it?

Rewards cards can offer incredible perks. But whether they’re the right choice depends on your financial needs, spending habits and goals. Weigh the pros and cons of your rewards card, and map out how much you need to spend to reap the biggest rewards.

When looking for a card, carefully read any limits and restrictions on how you can redeem points, and look for eligibility on bonus points at signup. The potential for travel perks, cash back and bonus points could cause you to spend more than normal, potentially resulting in high fees and interest on those purchases.


We analyzed data from a survey of 2,001 US adults commissioned by and conducted by Pureprofile in February 2018.

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