Millennials redeem card rewards for travel the most; silent generation the least

Vacation and card rewards varies by generation, Discover survey finds

Sabrina Karl
Personal Finance Writer
Data whiz and visual storyteller

 

For many, credit cards and travel have a happily circular relationship: Almost half of Americans prefer paying with a credit card while on vacation, while close to half also report redeeming credit card rewards to pay for travel. 

Still, 3 in 10 U.S. adults report they aren’t earning any credit card rewards, travel-related or otherwise. 

The findings come from a recent survey by Discover, which found that 45 percent of Americans pay for travel with credit card rewards. With another 26 percent using their rewards for other purposes, that leaves 30 percent who say they don’t earn any rewards at all. 

Young Generation Z adults, age 18-21, were the least likely to be earning and redeeming rewards, with 40 percent saying they earn none. Generation X wasn’t far behind, with 37 percent of those age 38-53 saying they aren’t reward earners. 

On the flip side, millennials (age 21-37) are the biggest travel reward redeemers, with almost half saying they use their rewards this way. But among the silent generation (age 73 and up), more than half redeem their rewards for non-travel uses. 

Discover also found that, while Americans are on vacation, 46 percent prefer to pay with credit cards, with debit cards and cash virtually tied for second, at 25 and 24 percent, respectively. 

While credit cards were the favorite way to pay while traveling for every age group except the young Generation Z, baby boomers and the silent generation were far more likely to prefer credit cards. Their affinity for credit cards ranged from 60 to 68 percent, while for millennials and Generation X, credit card preferences registered between 38 and 41 percent. 

Generation Z is different so far. For these 18-to-21-year-olds, cash and debit cards hold much more appeal while on vacation (35 and 33 percent, respectively), with credit cards ranking third at only 16 percent.

Discover conducted its survey online with market research company YouGov in late April 2018, sampling 1,110 U.S. adults age 18 and older. After weighting the results to mirror U.S. Census population demographics, its findings were released May 21.

Vacation credit card rewards vary by generation

See related: Best travel credit cards, 10 common travel card mistakes you need to avoid, More infographics


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Updated: 12-15-2018