Credit Card Rewards Don’t Appeal to 43 Million Americans

February 17, 2017 by Paul Ausick

Young man using a credit card machine at a checkout counter in a supermarket
Source: Thinkstock
While competition among credit card issuers generates dozens of enticements to shed a current card in favor of a new card offering more rewards, 48% of Americans rarely, if ever, switch to a different card. Some 38% have not changed their most-used card in the past 10 years, and some have never changed.

The older you are the more likely you have never changed. Older millennials (27 to 36 years old) report that reward and cash-back programs are the best things about the card they use most often.

The data were reported Thursday by CreditCards.com based on a survey of more than 1,000 credit card holders, of which 670 were credit card users.

Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, said:

If you never change credit cards, you miss out on a big opportunity to rack up rewards. It’s as simple as that. These offers have never been more generous, so now is the time to act.

Reward points and cash credits offer real benefits to card users, especially to those who pay off their balances in full every month and who use cards that charge no annual fee. These are not such a good deal for card issuers that earn a significant portion of their revenues from fees and interest charges.

And while rewards programs are likely to continue, they are unlikely to boost their offers going forward, according to an analyst at Sandler O’Neill:

I think we’ll continue to see travel and points rewards offered, but I don’t think we’ll see any acceleration from here. Card issuers are picking their spots where they think [rewards] can have a useful impact on growing balances and attracting new accounts.

In addition to reward points and cash back, other card benefits can also make a difference. Purchase protection, which guards card users against damage, loss or theft of merchandise, is a particularly popular and valuable benefit. Rental car insurance, extended purchase warranties and price protection are among other frequent offers.

Balance transfer offers also can make a big difference to card users who are trying to pay down balances. Some cards offer up to 18 months or more of no interest payments along with no annual fee, and the annual interest rate could drop to as low as 12% when the introductory promotional period is over, depending on a user’s credit rating and other card terms.