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In a world according to Amazon, we love the shift from cash to plastic, says Citigroup CEO

  • Amazon's global reach will likely benefit credit card issuers like Citigroup, Michael Corbat argues.
  • Corbat says credit card use has gone up, in conjunction with the surge in internet retail.

The all-consuming "Amazon effect" online is more beneficial than many Citigroup investors may think, Citi CEO Michael Corbat told CNBC.

"What people have missed is ... [credit] card usage has actually gone up," Corbat said in a wide-ranging interview with "Mad Money"host Jim Cramer on Wednesday.

"Sure, Amazon has benefited, but other online retailers benefit [too]," argued the CEO of one of the nation's top credit card issuers. "Today, only about 20 to 30 percent of purchases in stores happen on credit cards. About 100 percent [of purchases] happen online with credit cards. So we benefit from that. And if you think of our partners — Home Depot and American and Costco and all of those — we've definitely got to benefit from that."

In a 2016 study led by credit card processor Total System Services, researchers found credit cards topped the list of consumers' preferred payment methods for the first time ever.

Even with those tail winds from the increased use of plastic, Citigroup last week lowered its forecast for returns on branded credit cards. Citi CFO John Gerspach attributed the change to rising interest rates and the bank's Costco-branded card bringing in more revenue and income but with a lower return.

However, on Tuesday, Citi executives expressed a positive outlook for profit growth at Citigroup's first investor day since the 2008 financial crisis.

Watch Corbat's full interview here:

Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Citigroup.

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