Wealthy ditch material goods for experiences: Survey

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Wealthy people in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are increasingly choosing 'authentic experiences' over material possessions, a survey by Mastercard shows.

"Our studies... revealed a shifting tendency among the affluent to seek and discover authentic experiences as opposed to purchasing and owning physical luxury items," the authors said, noting increased focus on achieving personal growth and happiness through travel or mastering new skills.

"Financial success is perceived as the foundation that allows [wealthy individuals] to be the best person they can be. In addition, their strive towards financial independence is motivated by their belief that such status will grant them the choices, resources and the time they need in life," they added.

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Mastercard surveyed 1,000 affluent individuals in select Asia Pacific/Middle East/Africa (APMEA) countries - China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and the UAE - throughout 2013. The survey focused on the APMEA region due to its high concentration of wealthy people; by 2017, 70 percent of the world's affluent population will be located in APMEA.

Those surveyed listed dining, travel and golf as their top interests. They also showed a distinct preference for experiences relevant to their lifestyle rather than discounts and promotions.

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"Wealth is perceived to be a means to experience the world and to truly live life, with travel being the best medium to explore the world," the survey said, noting that APMEA's wealthy tend to travel for business or leisure at least six times per year.

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Mastercard also found that the desire to experience and learn from the rest of the world varied across countries. Affluent people in China and Japan where the local culture is perhaps more insular showed a greater desire to learn about other cultures. By contrast, the wealthy in Singapore, the UAE and Hong Kong, which have higher concentrations of expatriates, were less interested as they feel they already have an understanding of other cultures.

Golf remained the top interest across countries surveyed, with an average of two in every five survey respondents having played in the past 12 months.

Mastercard said the average affluent person in the APMEA region was aged 37, married with one child and had investable assets of at least $200,000.