- Millennials (ages 26 to 41): 40 percent
- Gen Z (ages 18 to 25): 25 percent
Four other credit card features, besides cash back, were popular enough among Generation Z to reach double digits: a card being “accepted most places” (14 percent), retail perks such as extended warranties and purchase protection (10 percent), customer service including the mobile app (10 percent) and a low interest rate (10 percent).
This diversity of responses may be because Gen Zers tend to be newer to credit cards than members of many older generations who may have carried credit cards in their wallets for years or decades, Steele says.
While cash back was still number one with Gen Zers, their picks for favorite credit card features were more diverse than older generations
“This is a new thing for them, so they may be more excited about the features and benefits,” he says. “Older generations may be more jaded.”
It might seem wise for credit cardholders who carry a balance from month to month to seek out one valuable card feature: low interest. But even balance carriers go for cash back, according to the survey.
How many Americans have credit card debt? Most U.S. adults (83 percent) have at least one credit card, according to data from the Federal Reserve. And half (51 percent) of active credit card accounts carry a balance from one month to the next, according to a erican Bankers Association.
Among cardholders who carry a balance, cash back was more than twice as popular (30 percent) as a low interest rate (13 percent). In fact, the survey found a large share of card debtors (40 percent) don’t even know the interest rate for the primary card on which they owe money.
But focusing on earning rewards while carrying a balance is a costly mistake. First, the interest you pay on the debt will cancel out your rewards many times over. The average credit card interest rate is over 16 percent. In contrast, the most generous cash back cards allow you to score an overall return of only about two percent cash back, Bankrate senior industry analyst Ted Rossman points out.
“If you’re carrying a balance from month to month, forget about rewards altogether,” says Nick Reyes, senior author at travel rewards site Frequent Miler. “There’s no way you’ll come out ahead.”
Many people stick with the same card for years
Credit card offers change regularly, and card issuers frequently add perks and make new offers with enticing sign-up bonuses. Still, many Americans tend to use the same card for years.
According to the survey, almost half (49 percent) of cardholders haven’t changed up their top-of-wallet card within the last five years. Here’s how that 49 percent breaks down:
- 26 percent have never switched their primary card
- 12 percent last switched five to 10 years ago
- 11 percent last switched over a decade ago
A smaller segment of cardholders switch up their go-to card regularly. One in five (21 percent) credit card users changed their main card within the past year. And over half of those (53 percent) say they switch cards frequently. The rest said their recent change was the first time they had swapped out their primary credit card in a while.
Older consumers are more likely to keep reaching for the same credit card for years. One in four boomers (25 percent) has always stuck with the same primary credit card, while almost one in three (31 percent) says it has been at least five years since they swapped their top card.