2016 Digital Money Trends Report: What We Learned About Credit Cards

by Jordan Lavin December 14, 2016 / No Comments

RateHub’s 2016 Digital Money Trends Report is a look at how Canadians are approaching their personal finance. We looked at trends related to mortgages, saving, investing, and more. Here’s what we learned about credit cards:

More credit card applications still happen offline

The days of going to your bank branch to apply for a credit card are far from over. Our research found that less than half of Canadians went online to apply for their most recent credit card. Forty-three percent applied at a bank branch, and 11% applied in a retail store. Those who did apply online for their most recent credit card were mostly millennials. Forty-seven percent of those aged 18-34 applied online, compared with 43% of 35-54 year-olds, and just 30% of those 55 and over. Our 2015 report also found that consumers were most likely to apply in a bank branch. But this year, applying at a bank branch was only more popular than going online by only one response. The scales may finally tip for the 2017 report.

You probably have a credit card from your primary financial institution

The bank you do business with most (usually the one where your chequing account is located), is likely to have a big share of your wallet. Our study found that approximately two-thirds of Canadians have a credit card from their primary financial institution. Surprisingly, young people showed the most loyalty in this area, with 69% of millennials falling into the category. A similar number of boomers had a credit card from their normal bank, but only 59% of generation Xers followed the trend.

Low fees trump credit card rewards 

On a scale of one to five, how important to you are fees when you select a new credit card? If you’re like three-quarters of Canadians, you’ve given fees a “four” or higher. Credit card rewards were up there as well, with cash back and travel rewards scoring 54% and 50%, respectively. Store credit didn’t garner much interest from our panel, but more than half said they’ve signed up for a credit cart to take advantage of a sign-up bonus like a free gift card.

MasterCard is the most-searched brand

Canadians searched for credit card-related keywords almost a million times every month in 2016. And if you went online to search for credit cards this, you probably typed in something to do with MasterCard. Canadians made an average of 257,000 searches a month for MasterCard, and 231,000 for Visa. American Express, which enjoys a much smaller market share in this country, had 181,000 searches. Bank of Montreal led searches among banks, but Loblaw-backed PC Financial stole the show with 320,000 searches every month. Our research also found that Aeroplan and Air Miles remain popular in search with 38,000 and 22,000 monthly searches, respectively. (The latter may be popular due to the unpopularity of its recent points expiration policy, however).

Credit cards get a lot of use, and generate a lot of debt

We found out the average person has 2.4 credit cards, and 44% of people use credit cards for at least three-quarters of their purchases. That’s a lot of use, and it’s led to a lot of debt. We looked at credit card debt by income, and found over half of people earning under $35,000 carry a balance. Even at the highest levels of income – $150,000 and over – around 30% of people owe at least some money on their credit cards. When we asked people how long it would take them to pay off their debt, half said it would be less than 3 months.

Get all the details on these stats and lots more in the 2016 Digital Money Trends Report. You can also read our roundups of what we learned about mortgages, and what we discovered about saving and investing. Come back tomorrow to read what we’ve learned from the report about credit scores.