Who’s Really Footing the Bill for Credit Card Rewards? A Study Explains

Are you tired of feeling like you’re paying for someone else’s credit card rewards? 

You’re not alone. Many believe that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer regarding credit card rewards. But, a recent study has uncovered who pays for these rewards. And the results may surprise you.

In this study, “Who Pays For Your Rewards? Redistribution in the Credit Card Market,” researchers examined how rewards redistribute wealth. 

Astonishingly, the results indicate that individuals with lower credit scores and less ideal payment practices are the ones financing credit card rewards, not those who are underprivileged or cash users.

In contrast, those with higher credit scores who stay away from interest fees emerge as winners.

So, keep reading if you’re ready to stop feeling like you’re paying for someone else’s rewards and start profiting from credit card rewards. 

We’ll dive into the study’s details and provide valuable insights on how to make the most of your credit card rewards.


Who's Really Footing the Bill for Credit Card Rewards
Who’s Really Footing the Bill for Credit Card Rewards

Background

To understand who pays for credit card rewards, it’s important to understand how card issuers fund their rewards programs. 

So, let’s look at the fees used to pay for these programs: credit card interest, interchange fees, and card fees.

Let us understand all things in Detail.

Understanding how card issuers fund their rewards programs

When you carry a balance from month to month, you are charged credit card interest. Further, merchants pay processing fees to accept credit cards, including the interchange fee. 

This fee is paid to the bank that issues the card. Lastly, /28some credit cards have additional fees, such as an annual fee.

Explanation of credit card interest, interchange fees and card fees

Credit card interest, interchange fees and card fees are the three types used to pay for credit card rewards. 

Credit card interest is charged when you carry a balance from month to month, an interchange fee is paid to the bank that issues the card, and card fees are additional fees that some credit cards have, such as an annual fee.

How do interchange fees contribute to higher prices?

You might have noticed that prices tend to be higher when a merchant makes a sale. Well, the reason for this is because of interchange fees. When a merchant sells something for $100, they usually end up with around $97.50 or $98 after all the processing costs have been deducted.

To compensate for these costs, merchants hike up their prices, which consequently means that those who pay in cash or with debit cards don’t get any rewards but still have to bear the same higher prices.

Now that you understand how card issuers fund their rewards programs and the types of fees used to pay for them, you have a better understanding of who pays for credit card rewards. 

It’s important to remember that interchange fee contribute to higher prices. Still, cash and debit card users also pay these higher prices without earning rewards.


Who pays for credit card rewards?

Credit card rewards are becoming increasingly popular among consumers looking for additional benefits from their cards. 

While these rewards can be extremely attractive, few people stop to ask the important question of who pays for them. 

This is a crucial question, as the answer can be complex and involves multiple parties, from the consumer and the financial industry. Let’s understand in the below section.

How card issuers fund their rewards programs

When you use your credit card, you may wonder where the rewards you earn come from. The answer is that card issuers fund their rewards programs through credit card interest, interchange fees, and card fees.

What are credit card interest, interchange fees and card fees?

When you carry a balance from month to month, you are charged credit card interest. Additionally, merchants pay processing fees to accept credit cards, including the interchange fee. 

This fee is paid to the bank that issues the card. Some credit cards also have additional fees, such as an annual fee. These are known as card fees.

How interchange fees contribute to higher prices

Interchange fees can contribute to higher prices for goods and services. 

When a merchant accepts a credit card, they pay a fee to the bank that issued the card. These fees are known as interchange fees. 

To cover the cost of these fees, merchants may raise prices. As a result, cash and debit card users end up paying the same higher prices without earning any rewards.

It’s important to remember that when you use your credit card, you are not only earning rewards but also contributing to the funding of rewards programs through credit card interest, interchange fees and card fees. 

And interchange fees contribute to higher prices, so cash and debit card users also pay these higher prices without earning rewards. 

By understanding this, you can make more informed decisions about how you use your credit card.


The Results

The research paper “Who Pays For Your Rewards? Redistribution in the Credit Card Market” assesses how people with different credit ratings and incomes gain rewards and pay fees.

You can see from this comparison that those with high FICO Scores benefit the most from credit card rewards, as they earned more in rewards than they paid in fees.

You, as an individual with great credit behaviors and a top-notch credit score, can gain from rewards credit cards.

On the other hand, those who have rewards cards with lower FICO Scores ultimately paid more in fees than they received in rewards.

This is because individuals with lower credit scores and suboptimal payment habits carry higher balances and pay more interest, resulting in them paying for someone else’s credit card rewards.

It’s important to note that the study’s results were not driven by income. The study found that credit habits, not income levels, were determining whether an individual could profit from credit card rewards. 

This means that regardless of how much money you make, good credit habits are crucial for being able to profit from credit card rewards.


Now the question is, how do you make money from rewards cards?

7 Tips to Make Money from Rewards Cards Without Losing Money

Utilize rewards cards judiciously.

You should make sure to choose wisely when using your rewards card. If you use the card at every purchase, you may spend more than you gain. 

A better option is to use the card for special occasions or when buying items of higher value than the reward itself. Doing so will help you save money and still reap the advantages of the loyalty program. 

Examine the advantages of rewards cards. 

It would help if you took the time to compare the rewards cards out there before deciding on one. 

Evaluate each one’s features and benefits and how often you will redeem points from them. Doing so will help you find the best card suited to your needs while reducing possible risks and maximizing your rewards. 

Cut costs with your regular expenditure. 

If you’re looking to make a little extra cash, rewards cards are an excellent way. For example, if you’re a Starbucks enthusiast, use your rewards card every time you purchase something from the store. 

Doing so will earn you points that can later be redeemed for complimentary drinks or other incentives. You can also take advantage of sales and get more bang for your buck: compare the regular price with the sale price and pocket the difference! 

This approach is great for caffeine lovers and anyone wishing to reduce their grocery, clothing, and other expenses. 

Receive cash refunds.

Do you want to make some extra cash without spending a dime? Then getting a rewards card is the way to go! 

Here are some tips you should follow to get the most out of your rewards card: 

Use your card for regular purchases; doing so increases the chance of earning rewards. Are you trying to figure out which rewards card is best for you? With so many options, it can be tough to choose. Take a moment to assess the rates and determine which card offers the most desirable deal. 

Monitor your advancement. After activating your rewards account, stay aware of your progress to keep track of how much you are earning. 

Buy both on the internet and in physical stores. You can maximize rewards cards’ benefits by shopping online and in-store. This way, you can accumulate points for every purchase – making it easy to earn rewards quickly. 

Just don’t forget to use your card often enough so that fees don’t waste any money you’ve earned. 

Spend points to acquire items that you wouldn’t usually buy. 

You can reap a lot of rewards by using a rewards card. By accumulating points, you can redeem them for items you wouldn’t typically buy, such as groceries or trips. This way, you can enjoy the rewards program’s advantages while saving money! 

Maximize travel rewards. 

You can easily maximize your travel rewards when you use rewards cards. You can increase your gains quickly by redeeming points for flights, hotels, car rentals, and more. 

Choosing the right rewards card and using its advantages to the fullest is essential. Here are seven tips for optimizing your travel rewards:


Conclusion

You may have wondered who benefits from credit card rewards – not just the wealthy. According to the study “Who Pays For Your Rewards?

Redistribution in the Credit Card Market”, those with higher credit scores take advantage at the expense of those with lower scores. 

You, as a consumer, who opts to pay for credit card rewards are not necessarily of a low-income group but those with bad credit practices such as keeping high balances and incurring extra interest. 

You must comprehend your credit practices and the details of credit card rewards programs. 

By familiarizing yourself with how rewards are funded and how your credit habits affect your ability to make the most out of them, you can make more informed choices regarding which cards to use and how to employ them. 

Suppose you want to get the most out of a rewards credit card. In that case, you should practice smart credit habits such as paying your balance in full monthly, steering clear of interest charges and thoroughly reading through the terms and conditions of the rewards program. 

This way, you can ensure that you are getting more from your rewards than you are spending on fees.

Dhiraj Jha is a personal finance and credit card expert dedicated to providing valuable insights and advice on budgeting, saving, investing, and debt management.

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