Poll shows people use their credit cards for everyday needs

Rewards are a distant second place

Sabrina Karl
Personal Finance Writer
Data whiz and visual storyteller


For most U.S. credit card holders, carrying plastic is simply a way to purchase the everyday things they need. Sure, there are other reasons to own a card, such as earning rewards or providing an emergency cushion. But the majority of consumers are using cards as a financial tool for regular purchases.

The data come from a new survey by Experian, which found that 68 percent of respondents said they use their card to simply purchase the things they need. Earning rewards was the next most-cited use, but was much less common, at 42 percent.

Only 37 percent reported they use their card as an emergency fund, while about 1 in 3 cardholders said they use their card to improve their credit rating (32 percent) or provide extra money for things they want (31 percent). A minority of 16 percent reported using their credit cards to pay off other debt.

What’s likely is that consumers are using different cards for different purposes, since the average number of cards per U.S. consumer is more than three.

Experian’s online survey was conducted by Edelman Intelligence, polling more than 1,000 people age 18 and older in May 2017. The results were released Aug. 30, 2017.

Poll shows people use cards for everyday needs

See related: Credit card use and availability statistics, More infographics

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Updated: 02-17-2019