We love points! Credit card rewards programs making cash a thing of the past

NEW YORK — Is cash no longer king in the United States? Most Americans say purchasing with cash doesn’t go as far anymore, with many now crowning their credit cards as their go-to for everything from everyday groceries to fully loaded vacations.

Credit CardsA survey of 2,000 Americans finds the average person has three credit cards to their name, but only a third (32%) pay their bills in full every month.

Two in five respondents use their credit card as frequently as a few times per week, with more than half using it on large and everyday expenses (52%). Other popular credit uses include travel (47%), restaurant dining (45%), and vacations (43%).

Spending with their cards does come with rewarding benefits, though. Fifty-five percent of cardholders have used rewards to almost entirely pay for a vacation, including cashing in on airline points for flights averaging around five hours in length.

Commissioned by Slickdeals and conducted by OnePoll, researchers also found that over half the poll (53%) experienced certain events for the first time because of their credit card’s rewards program. Some of these first-time experiences include fancy meals (54%), concerts (49%), and having $100 gift cards to use (46%).

Do your homework on credit card rewards programs

Three in four Americans (74%) use their credit card often enough to hit the minimum spending requirement to get reward benefits and points. To maximize their benefits, 76 percent will do extensive research on credit cards before applying, spending an average of six hours researching the perks of a single card.

Several things go into consideration when looking for the right card: 86 percent pay special attention to annual fees when signing up for a credit card. Another 78 percent will even weigh the benefits of their credit card against the annual fee.

Credit CardsForty-eight percent of respondents have applied for a credit card within the last year. Some motivators that go into getting a new card include wanting to take advantage of the rewards program (61%), wanting lower interest rates (50%), and having less cash on hand (46%). The poll also finds respondents save an average of $757 by using credit card rewards in the past year.

Credit cards aren’t just another way to pay for your purchases. If you choose the right rewards cards and you’re strategic about how you use them, you can earn tremendous benefits such as free flights, hotel stays or even cashback,” according to Louie Patterson, Senior Personal Finance Editor for Slickdeals, in a statement.

Which perks are the best?

Three in four people are more likely to shop from a certain brand if they get better credit card rewards from shopping there. Some recalled the best rewards they’ve gotten from using their card — including new TVs, free vacations, gaming consoles, gas discounts, and international flights to places like the Philippines and South America.

Three in five have used their credit cards more in the past year than ever before, mostly to put a down payment on things they’re doing at a later date (33%) or to collect rewards (30%).

“Once you’ve done the research on the right rewards card for you, there are a number of ways to maximize the benefits. Make sure you pay off the balance in full, look for opportunities to pay with your card for monthly fees such as insurance, cable and cell phone bills, and be on the lookout for opportunities to earn bonus points, which may be awarded for specific types of purchases,” Patterson adds.