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The credit card industry has become a competitive arena, offering increasingly attractive perks to entice and retain the 80% of Americans who use or own a credit card, per the results of a Harris Poll survey. The most vital features surround fees and interest rates: three-quarters of card-holders surveyed said that it was either essential or extremely important that their primary credit card have no annual fee, and more than half (56%) felt the same way about low interest rates.

It’s interesting to note that a higher percentage of men (80-86%) between the ages of 35 to 64 and women aged 45 to 64 believe it critical to not have to pay an annual fee. Those between 35-54 years of age, for their part, were more likely to seek out low interest rates. Lower in priority for primary cards are features such as no foreign transaction fees (29%) and the ability to get cash advances or loans (21%).

Perks which respondents feel are “nice to have” include merchandise points, food and dining benefits and flexible points. The least desirable bonuses were budgeting tools and special VIP privileges. Cash back was considered a “must have” by more than one-third of respondents, and 1 in 10 said they would even pay extra for it.

As offers become more competitive, more people are taking advantage of appealing ones. In fact, the majority (59%) of card-holders surveyed pay their credit card balances in full each month, getting the rewards without having to pay interest on a balance, and often not even having to pay for an annual fee. Our report on Millennials and financial services demonstrates that those in this age group are more likely than any other generation to use a credit card for most of their purchases just to earn rewards.

About the Data: The survey was conducted online among 2,037 US adults aged 18+ between November 2-4, 2016.

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