How much cash back are people actually getting from their credit cards? Who charges the most money to their card, boomers or Gen Z? Does having a credit card mean you’re more likely to have good credit compared to someone who doesn’t?
These questions, and many more, are what we set out to answer in our study on cash-back credit card users*.
We surveyed a total of 1,205 people—802 who use cash-back credit cards to pay for most expenses and 403 who primarily use a debit card, cash, or money app (such as Venmo). By analyzing and comparing the two groups, we were able to learn more about how preferred payment methods can affect spending and budgeting habits.
Read on for the 18 most interesting findings from our research.
Notes: Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number, so some data sets may not add up to 100%.
*We focused on cash-back rewards because they are the most popular type of credit card perk.
1. $50 was the median amount people made in cash-back rewards in a month.
Our study found that $50 was the median amount people earned in cash-back rewards in a month.
But certain age groups may be more savvy about racking up their rewards than others.
The median cash-back amount by generation was:
• Boomers: $20
• Gen X: $40
• Millennials: $50
• Gen Z: $59.50
Because boomers are likely to have higher earnings and more savings than the other age groups, they may be less concerned about maxing out their cash-back rewards. And Gen Z respondents, who may have smaller salaries and bank accounts, might have learned to be savvy with their cash-back rewards card out of financial necessity.
2. Three-quarters of cash-back credit card users save up their rewards over time.
75% of all cash-back credit card users prefer to save their rewards versus cashing them out every month.
Respondents may have long-term goals in mind for their cash-back credit card. By accruing the cash they can use it for a larger purchase.
3. A majority of cash-back credit card users have “Very Good” or “Excellent” credit.
Our study found that a majority (58%) of cash-back credit card users have “very good” or “excellent” credit (meaning a score of 740 or above).
In fact, people who use a cash-back credit card are more than twice as likely to have “excellent” credit (a score of 800-850) compared to those who used a debit card, cash, or money-transfer app to make most of their purchases (23% vs. 9%).
Debit, cash, and money app users were five times more likely to have “poor” credit (a score of 579 or below) than cash-back rewards cardholders (15% vs. 3%).
Breaking down the data by age we discovered:
• 71% of boomers who use cash-back credit cards have “very good” or “excellent” credit.
• 55% of Gen Xers who use cash-back credit cards have “very good” or “excellent” credit.
• 53% of millennials who use cash-back credit cards have “very good” or “excellent” credit.
• 48% of Gen Zers who use cash-back credit cards have “very good” or “excellent” credit.
Older credit card users may have better credit because they’ve had more time to build their credit history.
4. The amount of money spent by cash-back credit card users in a month was 67% greater than the amount spent by debit, cash, and money app users.
The difference is significant: Our study found that the money cash-back credit card users spent in a month was 67% more than the amount of money that debit, cash, and money app users spent.
The median spending amount for:
• Cash-back credit card users was $1,000.
• Debit card, cash, and money app users was $600.
Cash-back credit cardholders may feel incentivized to spend money since they know they’ll earn rewards on their purchases. Credit cards also allow for greater financial flexibility compared to debit cards.
Consider this: If the group who primarily uses a debit card, cash, or money app were to use a 2% cash-back credit card, they could potentially earn an extra $144 in a year (2% x $600/month x12 months = $144). If they were to use a 3% cash-back credit card, they would potentially pocket over $200 in a year, just in rewards (3% x $600/month x 12 months = $216).
5. Gen Zers are the most conservative credit card spenders compared to other age groups.
Surprisingly, Gen Zers are the most frugal credit card spenders compared to all other age groups.
The median spending amount for Gen Z cash-back credit card holders was half that of Gen Xers and millennials.
Cash-back cards spending by generation:
• Boomers: $700
• Gen X: $1,000
• Millennials: $1,000
• Gen Z: $500
Gen Xers and millennials spent the most ($1,000), which could be because these groups are more likely to have growing families and more expenses. Gen Zers spent $500; contributing factors could be lower credit limits, financial support from their parents, and fewer financial obligations.
6. More than half of respondents use their card to pay for mortgage, rent, and/or utilities.
More than half of people who regularly use a cash-back credit card (57%) used it to pay for their mortgage, rent, and/or utilities in March 2022. With living expenses on the rise, and the potential to earn considerable points, it makes sense that people would put these bills on their cash-back card.
There are some gender and age differences. We discovered that 65% of men used their cash-back card to pay for mortgage, rent, and/or utilities, compared to 47% of women. Millennials and Gen Zers were the age groups most likely to put these expenses on their credit card, and Boomers were the least likely.
Percentage of cash-back credit card users who paid for mortgage, rent, and/or utilities with their card:
• Boomers: 41%
• Gen X: 49%
• Millennials: 64%
• Gen Z: 62%
7. More than one in 10 respondents spent over $500 on gas in March alone.
According to our study, 12% of cash-back credit card users spent over $500 on gas in the month of March. That means the amount of money these respondents spent on gas was more than the average monthly car payment for a used vehicle ($488).
Method of payment didn’t affect how much respondents spent on gas overall. We found that 10% of debit card, cash, and money app users spent over $500 on gas. The big difference: These consumers were not able to earn cash back on their petrol purchases the way cash-back credit card users were.
8. Debit card, cash, and money app users may have a harder time saving compared to credit card users.
Over the course of a month, we found that:
• 33% of debit card, cash, and money app users were not able to put any money into savings.
• 15% of cash-back credit card users were not able to put anything into savings.
This means debit card, cash, and money app users are more than twice as likely to be unable to contribute to their savings compared to cash-back credit card users.
Looking at respondents who put at least $100 into savings in a month, we discovered that 72% of cash-back credit card users were able to do so, compared to 52% of debit card, cash, and money app users.
9. Millennials may be the best savers of all the age groups.
Based on the results of our survey, millennials were the star savers. The median amount they put into savings monthly was $300.
Gen X and Gen Z save $250 and $287 monthly, respectively.
Boomers had the lowest median monthly savings amount at $100. One possible reason: Since they likely have some savings built up, they may not need to contribute as much to their nest egg as the younger generations.
10. People in relationships were able to save three times as much as single people.
Being in a relationship may lead to fiscal stability. According to our survey, respondents who were married or living with a partner were able to save three times as much as those who were single, widowed, or divorced.
The monthly median savings amount for people who are:
• Married or living with a partner was $300.
• Single, widowed, or divorced was $100.
Those who are married or living with a partner had a median monthly spending amount of $1,000—meaning they save $0.30 for every $1 they spend. Those who are single, widowed, or divorced had a monthly median spending amount of $800, so they save about $0.13 for every $1 they spend.
11. Men are twice as likely to spoil their pets compared to women.
Dogs really are man’s best friend: Men are more than twice as likely as women to spend a significant sum on their pets.
Overall, 9% of all cash-back credit card users spent over $500 on their pet in a month.
Breaking down the numbers, we found that:
• 12% of men spent over $500 on their pets in a month.
• 6% of women spent over $500 on their pets in a month.
Money can’t buy love, but it can buy toys and treats.
12. More than one in 10 people spent over $500 on restaurants in a month.
Our survey found that 14% of cash-back credit card users spent over $500 on restaurants and bars. More specifically, 17% of men spent over $500 in a month versus 10% of women.
Millennials are most likely to spend a lot of money on restaurants and bars. This age group had nine times the percentage of respondents who spent over $500 compared to boomers.
Respondents who spent over $500 on restaurants in a month by generation:
• Boomers – 2%
• Gen X – 12%
• Millennials – 18%
• Gen Z – 13%
Debit card, cash, and money app users were not far behind—12% of these consumers spent over $500 on restaurants in a month. If they used a rotating rewards card that offered 5% back on dining instead, they would potentially earn $25 in rewards in a month, or $300 a year!
13. Gen Z spent the most on clothes and shoes.
According to our survey, 20% of Gen Zers spent over $500 in a month on outfits and shoes.
To put it into perspective, here’s the percentage of cash-back credit card users in different age groups who spent over $500 on clothing and shoes in a month:
• Boomers: 4%
• Gen X: 10%
• Gen Z: 20%
Boomers are the most frugal when it comes to new clothes. More than one-third spent $0 on clothing and shoes in a month.
Percentage of cash-back credit card users who spent nothing on clothing and shoes in a month:
• Boomers: 35%
• Gen X: 22%
• Millennials: 16%
• Gen Z: 11%
14. Gas was the most regretted purchase for all respondents, regardless of payment method.
When asked what purchase respondents regretted most, gas rose to the top, regardless of payment method.
Here are a few other notable answers we received for most regrettable purchase:
• A puppy my son said he would take care of and didn’t
• A plane ticket and then forgetting what day the flight was
• A ticket to a bad movie
• I got scammed trying to buy an NFT
• Crypto futures
• A book shelf that fell apart two days after I put it together
• A $1,000 pair of shoes
• The wrong kind of ice cream
• A gym membership I didn’t use
15. Groceries and food purchases bring people the most joy.
When we asked cash-back credit card users what purchase brought them the most joy, we expected answers like vacations or special clothing. Instead, food and groceries were the most common responses.
We also discovered that people were happiest with purchases that involved a family member or pet, as illustrated by these responses:
• Birthday present for my mom
• Dinner with the wife for date night
• My dog getting her tooth/mouth fixed as she wasn’t in pain any longer
• A new bike for my daughter
• Dog’s birthday gifts
• My wedding dress
• Gifts for my grandchildren
• Catnip and wet food
• Lunch for my dad on his birthday
• A video game that me and my daughter play
• Taking care of my dog at the emergency vet because her life was saved
• Anniversary vacation with my wife
• My heart surgery
16. Men are more than twice as likely to spend over $500 on entertainment compared to women.
In one month, 15% of men who use cash-back credit cards spent over $500 on entertainment* compared to just 6% of women.
Of those men:
• 21% used a rotating-reward cash-back credit card.
• 11% used a flat-rate cash-back credit card.
That means men who have a rotating rewards cash-back card are almost twice as likely to spend over $500 on entertainment compared to men who use a flat-rate cash-back credit card.
*”Entertainment” was defined as “sports, concerts, etc.”
17. Millennials were the biggest travelers, but Gen Z isn’t far behind.
Traveling can be an amazing experience, and being able to do so now is a sign that life is returning to normal. So who is going places? Looking at travel expenditures by age group, we found millennials to be the biggest travelers, with Gen Z right behind them.
Percentage of cash-back card users who spent over $500 on travel in a month:
• Boomers: 5%
• Gen X: 15%
• Millennials: 21%
• Gen Z: 18%
These numbers may speak to a greater travel trend, which predicts that Gen Z will overtake millennials in travel spending this year. According to Travel Pulse, 72% of Gen Zers are planning to splurge on a vacation in 2022, while 68% or millennials plan to do the same.
18. Men are more likely to spend a lot of money on home decor compared to women.
In our study, we found that 16% of all men who have cash-back credit cards spent over $500 on home-related expenses (furniture, decor, repairs), compared to 10% of women.
Of these men, 13% were single, divorced, or widowed, and 16% were married. Looking at the women who spent over $500 using their cash-back rewards card, 10% were married and lived with their partner, and 9% were single, divorced, or widowed.
Our survey found that payment method, gender, and age can all affect a person’s spending and savings. For instance, men tend to spend more on their pets and home furnishings than women. Gen Zers accrue the most credit card rewards; boomers the least. And the majority of cash-back credit card users have “very good” or “excellent” credit scores.
In addition, cash-back credit card users are more likely to be able to put money into savings compared to people who use a debit card, cash, or money app to pay for most of their purchases. Perhaps the money they get in rewards goes into their nest egg.
Curious what a cash-back credit card could do for you? The SoFi Credit Card offers 3% unlimited cash-back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. (You’ll need to set up direct deposit for a SoFi Checking and Savings account, otherwise you’ll earn 2%.) Cardholders earn 1% cash-back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1
The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
New and existing Checking and Savings members who have not previously enrolled in direct deposit with SoFi are eligible to earn a cash bonus when they set up direct deposits of at least $1,000 over a consecutive 25-day period. Cash bonus will be based on the total amount of direct deposit. The Program will be available through 12/31/23. Full terms at sofi.com/banking. SoFi Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. Member FDIC.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 4.00% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 1.20% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 3/17/2023. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
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1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points as cash deposited into your SoFi Checking and Savings account, as a statement credit to a SoFi Credit Card account, as fractional shares into your SoFi Invest account, or as a payment toward your SoFi Personal Loan or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.