Momentive study: credit card users weigh costs and perks


Momentive study: credit card users weigh costs and perks

The most important credit card features include cash back, annual fees, and APR, while perks like exclusive event access and TSA precheck fall behind

Zoe Padgett

November 18, 2022 | 4 min read


Key findings:

  • Younger Americans have fewer open credit cards compared with older age groups, but are applying for and churning cards at higher rates 
  • Reasons for applying for a new card differ by income; high-income adults open cards to increase their credit limits while middle- and low-income adults focus on building credit history
  • Features related to the cost of a card, including cash back, annual fees, and APR, are the most important for credit card customers; exclusive access to events and presales, air travel perks like TSA Precheck, and foreign transaction fees are the least important
  • Younger adults are more likely to use digital payment platforms and buy now, pay later options; PayPal has the most popular version of both

Young adults apply for credit cards, churn cards at a higher rate

Credit cards are overwhelmingly popular. In new research conducted by Momentive,  three in four U.S. adults (76%) have at least one credit card open; among those who don’t have a credit card in their own name, 7% are an authorized user on someone else’s card. Older adults have more credit cards overall, with 16% of those ages 65 and up having five or more cards open (compared with 4% of those ages 18-34 and 7% of those ages 35-64). 


Although older adults have more cards open, younger adults apply for new cards at higher rates. Among those ages 18-34, 40% have applied for a new card in the last 12 months (vs. 30% of 35-64 year olds and 23% of those ages 65+) and 61% plan to apply for one in the next 12 months (vs. 42% of 35-64 year olds and 18% of those ages 65+). Young adults are more likely to “churn” credit cards, or repeatedly open and close cards to maximize rewards: one in three young adults (33%) admit to churning cards vs. 18% of 35-64 year olds and 9% of those ages 65+.


Why are people opening so many new cards? It differs by income. The main reason is to build credit history among lower-income adults making less than $50,000 (44%) and middle-income earners making $50,000-$99,999 (40%). For higher-income earners (making $100,000+), the main reasons are to increase their credit limit (46%) and for specific rewards or points offered (41%). 

Credit card applications are faster and easier than consumers expect. Six in 10 recent applicants (60%) say it took less than one hour from application to approval; a nearly-identical 59% say it was easier than expected, and 55% say it was faster than expected. 

Visa dominates the credit card market


Visa is the big winner among the four major credit card networks, capturing nearly  three in four credit card users (72%). Mastercard (53%) comes in second, and far fewer own a Discover (22%) or American Express (21%) card. Card issuers are more diverse; Capital One is the largest issuer – one in three credit card users (33%) have a card issued by Capital One. One in four have a card with Chase (25%) or Bank of America (25%). American Express (19%), Discover (16%), and Citi (16%) round out the top six issuers, with others not far behind. Co-branded cards that have the logo of another brand are also very popular; 42% of credit card users have a co-branded card, the most popular being Amazon, Target, and Walmart.

Cash-back is the most important credit card feature


Perks matter – 31% of credit card users care “a great deal” about maximizing their credit card benefits, and another 39% care “a fair amount.” American Express users care the most (44% care “a great deal”), while Mastercard (33%), Discover (32%), and Visa (31%) users care a bit less. However, the critical benefits seem to be those related to cost. Credit card users rank cash-back as their most important feature in choosing a credit card, followed by annual fees, APR, and the card’s credit limit. The least important perks include foreign transaction fees, air travel perks, and exclusive access to events and presales.

Digital payment platforms allow young adults to split expenses


Digital payment platforms are an important way for younger generations to split shared expenses. Cash is still king for most groups (44% of Gen Z’ers prefer to split via cash, 45% of Millennials and Gen X, 43% of Boomers, and 33% of Silent Generation). But digital payment platforms are rivaling cash among younger generations, with 40% of Gen Z’ers and 38% of Millennials preferring to use digital payment platforms. Norms are different in the older generations, with 48% of Boomers and 59% of the Silent Generation preferring to pay individually instead of splitting expenses. 

PayPal is the dominant digital payment platform among Millennials (74%), Gen X (79%), and Boomers (79%), but lags behind with Gen Z (53%). Gen Z prefers Cash App (58%), which is also popular with Millennials (54%) but less so with Gen X (37%) and Boomers (17%).


Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) options are gaining popularity as well, as 1 in 5 Americans say they “always” or “frequently” use these options when available, including 38% of those ages 18-34, 18% of those ages 35-64, and 4% of those ages 65 and up. BNPL is used most often with electronics (30%), automotive (26%), fashion (23%), furniture (19%), grocery (19%), and beauty (19%) purchases. 39% of BNPL users have used PayPal Pay in 4, making it the most popular platform, followed by Afterpay (27%), Affirm (22%), and Klarna (21%).

Read more about our polling methodology here

Click through all the results in the interactive toplines below:


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