Chasing points: How many of us use credit cards just for the rewards?
Over 87 million Americans pay with plastic for the perks.
More than a third (39%) of cardholders say they’ve used a credit card solely to rack up rewards points, according to the latest Chasing Points study from finder.com, an annual study of roughly 2,100 American adults about their credit card spending habits. That’s about 87.1 million of rewards cardholders, up 21% from last year’s 71.7 million who admitted to the same.
Our study found that Americans cardholders charged an average of $1,814.75 each to take advantage of loyalty programs associated with their rewards cards.
However, while more people than last year appear to be pulling out plastic in the hunt for rewards, the amount they’re spending is on the way down. Americans spent $158 billion on their credit cards, which is roughly 10% less than the $175.8 billion spent in the previous year.
What were people buying?
Finder’s study found that of the nearly $1,815 spent by American cardholders looking to earn points on their purchases, they most often swiped for groceries (28.1%), followed by dining out (23%) and hotels (16.9%).
Let’s break it down
Of our respondents, men both spent more and are more likely to buy with a credit card just for the rewards. Some 21% of men say they’ve paid with plastic for points, and they’re spending an average of $1,979.82 a year on their cards, compared with 18% of women who charge at an average of $1,573.63 a year.
In 10 of 11 spending categories, men are more likely than women to spend money to get points. Women are slightly more likely than men to spend money on cosmetics and fragrances.
|Item||Women %||Men %|
|Cosmetics and fragrances||5.53%||5.33%|
But when chasing points, women outspend their male counterparts in 5 of the 11 spending categories: flights, hotels, household items, cosmetics and fragrances, and other.
We all gotta eat. And across generations, groceries are the top purchase for credit card points hunters. It’s also the category in which all generations spend the most.
|Generation||Likelihood||Amount spent||What they’re most likely to buy|
The generation most committed to racking up loyalty points? Millennials, with 35.06% admitting to using a credit card for points, compared to baby boomers (30.27%) and Gen X (23.03%).
However, Gen X spends the most on rewards cards across the board, averaging $1,750.47 per person, followed by millennials ($1,355.05) and baby boomers ($1,240.69).
It may not shock you that the more money people have, the more likely they are to drop big money on their credit cards to score loyalty rewards. Cardholders who say they earn more than $300,000 a year also say they spend an average of $4,297.95 in an effort to score points.
|Household income||Average spent|
|$0 to $24,999||$572.48|
|$25,000 to $49,999||$1,123.49|
|$50,000 to $74,999||$1,223.72|
|$75,000 to $99,999||$1,555.86|
|$100,000 to $149,999||$2,082.48|
|$150,000 to $299,999||$2,377.72|
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.
Past Chasing Points surveys
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