Your Money, Your Future
Your Money, Your Future

More people are using credit cards for purchases under $5 and that may be a good thing

Key Points
  • More people are making small purchases with credit cards.
  • The increase can be tied to the rise of cards that give perks for high monthly spending.
  • Millennials are the most likely to use cards for small purchases.

We've all silently judged that person buying the candy bar at the gas station with the credit card. Keep the judgments coming because more people are pulling out the plastic for tiny transactions.

"There used to be a stigma for making a small purchase with a credit card, not anymore " said Matt Schulz, senior analyst at

However, 17 percent of people have used their cards to buy something that costs less than $5, up from 11 percent from last year, according to a new survey from of 1,001 adults in mid-March.

Tim Robberts | Getty Images

The increase partially can be attributed to the rise of cards that dole out the perks for high monthly spending, Schulz said. Several rewards cards require you spend $3,000 or more in the first three months to qualify for bonuses.

Cardholders aren't just charging the small stuff. found that nearly 60 percent preferred plastic to buy things totaling over $500, compared with 24 percent who swipe a debit card, 10 percent who pay with cash and 8 percent who write a check.

On average, Americans make about five purchases of more than $500 each year. Schulz recommends that people with good credit, a score of 720 or above, should consider opening rewards card to make a major buy. "Once you use the card for the purchase, pay off the balance in full and collect the rewards," he said.

Mobile payment platforms aren't exactly catching on.
Mike Maughan
head of brand growth and global insights at Qualtrics

Millennials were the generation most likely to use credit cards for small purchases, according to About 21 percent of young people charged things for less than $5 compared with 16 percent for Generation X and 12 percent for baby boomers.

But don't expect millennials to go completely cashless anytime soon. Eighty percent of millennials still primarily use cash and they are four times more likely to pay with greenbacks than mobile payment apps like Apple Pay and Venmo, according to a recent survey by Accel and Qualtrics.

More from Your Money Your Future:
Using your credit card could give your kids the wrong idea about money
4 great ways to head off a financial shock
Maximize your tax savings for 2017

"Mobile payment platforms aren't exactly catching on," said Mike Maughan, head of brand growth and global insights at survey software firm Qualtrics.