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American affluent want cash back

But the really wealthy lean towards travel

American affluent want cash back

There’s a conversation that took place—likely it’s apocryphal—between Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald:

Fitzgerald: The rich are different than you and me.

Hemingway: Yes, they have more money.

According to a new poll from, this holds true for the American Affluents’ attitude towards incentive-based cards: They want more money.

That is, they prefer cash-back cards.

The website’s survey found that 60% of credit cardholders with investable assets of $100,000 or more say cash back is their favorite card bonus. By contrast, only 22% rated frequent flyer miles as their favorite incentive.

And other incentives barely registered on the scale. Only 7% rated free hotel stays as their top pick. Merchandise bonuses only ranked with 5% of the sample of 793 affluent American adults. Other incentives together accounted for only 3% of the sample.

The website’s press release compared the cash-back preference to a survey of all credit card holders by Fidelity, which found that 63% preferred cash back.

Dollars are dollars, points can lose value

So, maybe the rich aren’t so different after all?

“It definitely seems both the wealthy folks and the masses are preferring cash back,” says Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at He speculated that one advantage of cash back is the freedom recipients enjoy. They can spend it how, where, and when they like.

Frequent traveler promotions, by contrast, can sometimes be subject to blackout dates, he points out. In addition, travel programs sometimes stipulate expiration dates for points, and periodically some programs have changed the value of points by adjusting requirements for travel purchased with points.

Schulz also suggests that post-recession spending may also have an impact here. Many Americans still aren’t traveling as much as they had before the recession, he says, while money always comes in handy.

Other findings

Parsing the date more finely, the survey also found:

• Affluent women prefer cash back over miles nearly four-to-one (67% to 17%), while wealthy men prefer it two-to-one (56% to 25%).

• Two-thirds of millennials with wealth prefer cash back, while just 14% choose miles.

• In a slight departure from the general trend, 23% of the wealthiest Americans—those with $500,000 or more in investable assets—prefer miles. However,  53% said they prefer cash back.

On this point the study says: “People with household incomes of $100,000 or more were twice as likely to say frequent flier miles were their favorite than people with $75,000 or less. People with $500,000 or more in investable assets were twice as likely to choose miles as their favorite reward, compared with those with $100,000 to $250,000. Still, cash was the overwhelming favorite in all income and asset categories.”

Read the survey, “Poll: Wealthy cardholders prefer cash-back rewards”

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