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US Credit Card Rewards Market Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Credit Card Rewards market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Key points included

  • Simplicity is key, cash back is favored
  • Indicators point to potential troubles ahead
  • In a saturated market, consumers are polarized

Covered in this report

This report examines consumer attitudes and behaviors concerning credit card rewards, and includes information about:

  • How many cards consumers use
  • What might motivate consumers to apply for a card
  • How consumers accrue and redeem credit card rewards

For additional related information, see Mintel’s Consumer Payment Preferences – US, September 2018, and for an in-depth review of credit card rewards marketing materials, please visit comperemedia. com.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Chris Shadle, a leading analyst in the Financial Services sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The credit card industry is a well-established one, and a handful of top players dominate the industry – in terms of both market share and assets. The majority of consumers already own a credit card, and most who use them frequently own several. As a result, competition for new customers is fierce, and is driven in large part by new young consumers. Rewards provide both the allure and differentiation in a consumer’s choice of card, but issuers must also combat a lack of motivation to apply as well as a reticence to take on more debt Chris Shadle
Financial Services Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • Key findings
          • In a saturated market, consumers are polarized
            • Simplicity is key, cash back is favored
              • Indicators point to potential troubles ahead
                • What it means
                • The Market – What You Need to Know

                  • Consumers love credit
                    • Credit debt and delinquencies both on the rise
                      • Macroeconomic indicators convey healthy market for spending
                      • Market Size

                        • Number of open credit accounts has risen 20% in five years
                          • Figure 1: Number of open credit card accounts, Q4 2013-Q4 2018
                        • More than 4 in 5 consumers have a credit card, and half have multiple
                          • Figure 2: Number of credit cards used in past 3 months, May 2019
                      • Market Factors

                        • Amidst sea of other debt, credit card balances have returned to pre-recession levels…
                          • Figure 3: Consumer debt balance, non-housing debt, Q1 2003-Q1 2019
                        • …while credit card delinquencies creep upwards
                          • Figure 4: Flow into Serious Delinquency (90 days or more delinquent)†
                        • High consumer sentiment + low unemployment = greater spending?
                          • Figure 5: Consumer confidence and unemployment, 2000-19
                      • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                        • Big players have near total market penetration
                          • Experiential rewards are the biggest draw
                            • Beware the “churner”
                              • Consumers need help with their cards
                                • New players and products add new possibilities
                                • What’s Working

                                  • Top six issuers enjoy ~90% market penetration
                                    • Figure 6: Market share of top US credit card issuers, May 2019
                                  • In the age of FOMO, experiential rewards are in
                                    • Figure 7: Value of experiences over things, April 2019
                                    • Figure 8: Chase Sapphire Reserve offer materials, September 2016
                                    • Figure 9: Capital One Savor acquisition email, November 2018
                                  • Third-party comparison sites are a go-to destination
                                    • Figure 10: Nerdwallet credit card comparison homepage, August 2019
                                    • Figure 11: Amazon credit card comparison homepage, August 2019
                                • What’s Struggling?

                                  • Churners are costing the industry money
                                    • Issuers need to help consumers take full advantage of their rewards
                                      • Figure 12: Attitudes toward credit cards – CHAID – Tree output, June 2019
                                      • Figure 13: Attitudes toward credit cards – CHAID – Table output, June 2019
                                    • Consumers aren’t paying off balances, and their debt is causing them stress
                                      • Figure 14: Paying credit card balance in full, by race & ethnicity, May 2019
                                  • What’s Next?

                                    • Apple Card will be first big test of tech’s foray into finance
                                      • Figure 15: Apple Card announcement, March 2019
                                      • Figure 16: attitudes toward large financial corporations, April 2019
                                    • Knowing the cool kid has perks: the rise of influencer marketing
                                      • Figure 17: Rose gold American Express refer-a-friend, July 2019
                                    • New ground to be tackled: Healthcare?
                                      • Figure 18: fitness bank homepage, August 2019
                                  • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                    • Most consumers are using either one or two cards per month
                                      • Cash is king: parts I & II
                                        • People aren’t terribly motivated to apply for a credit card
                                          • Play and get played
                                            • Rewards are the norm, and looks count
                                            • How Many Cards Are In Your Wallet?

                                              • Most consumers use one or two cards
                                                • Figure 19: Number of credit cards used in past 3 months, May 2019
                                              • Consumers are using their cards a lot; Gen Z only exception
                                                • Figure 20: Credit card use in past 30 days, May 2019
                                              • Who doesn’t have a credit card?
                                                • Figure 21: Consumers without a credit card, by area, race & ethnicity, and generation, May 2019
                                            • Rewards Earn and Redemption

                                              • Cash(back) is king
                                                • Figure 22: Type of credit card rewards earned, May 2019
                                              • Multiple-card users follow predictable hierarchy: Cash > Points > Miles
                                                • Figure 23: Type of credit card rewards earned, by number of cards used in past 3 months, May 2019
                                              • Cash & Points are most popular combo; store cards lure Gen Z and Millennials
                                                • Figure 24: Most popular rewards combinations among consumers with 2+ Credit cards, May 2019
                                              • When redeeming, cash wins out (even among travel cardholders)
                                                • Figure 25: Most popular rewards redemption method, May 2019
                                            • Motivation to Apply

                                              • Consumers aren’t highly motivated, but cash and lack of fees are the most enticing
                                                • Figure 26: Motivating factors to apply for a credit card, May 2019
                                              • Balance transfers and credit building cards have youth appeal
                                                • Figure 27: Motivating factors to apply for a credit card, by age, May 2019
                                            • Credit Card Behaviors

                                              • Young consumers more likely to game system, to be gamed by it
                                                • Figure 28: Credit card rewards redemption and expiry trends, by age, May 2019
                                              • Carrying a credit card balance is quite common
                                                • Figure 29: Paying credit card balance in full, by race & ethnicity, May 2019
                                              • Parents tend to game the system a bit more
                                                • Figure 30: General credit card behaviors, by parental status, May 2019
                                            • Attitudes toward Cards

                                              • Consumers are willing to pay, and looks matter
                                                • Figure 31: Attitudes toward physical card, and card rewards, by age, may 2019
                                              • Touting security benefits could drive mobile wallet adoption
                                                • Figure 32: Attitudes toward credit card security and mobile wallet use, May 2019
                                            • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                              • Data sources
                                                • Consumer survey data
                                                  • Direct marketing creative
                                                    • Abbreviations and terms
                                                      • Abbreviations
                                                        • CHAID Methodology