You could be overlooking this reason to pay with credit cards

  • Many Americans are not using credit cards for purchases under $10, according to a new survey.
  • Not opting to pay with plastic can mean you're sacrificing opportunities to earn rewards points.
  • If you do have a rewards credit card, be sure not to carry a balance, which can cancel out the value of the perks.
Source: Chase

When it comes to small purchases, more Americans prefer paying with cash.

For purchases under $10, about 45 percent choose cash compared with 30 percent who opt for debit cards and 23 percent who go with credit cards, according to a new survey from CreditCards.com.

It is not until purchases get larger — at about $25 — that a so-called tipping point is reached where consumers are more willing to pay with plastic.

Most cited the inconvenience of using credit cards as the reason they did not use them more for smaller purchases. Other payment methods were perceived as easier and quicker to use.

But not using credit cards for those purchases could mean you're leaving rewards or points on the table, according to Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com.

"If you have a rewards card, you should probably be using it more often," Rossman said. "That's why it's surprising that credit cards came in so low on the list."

Rewards credit cards are ideal for small purchases, where you can rack up points and pay off the balance quickly, according to Rossman.

If you do carry a balance — with annual percentage rates currently averaging 17 percent — that can get expensive and outweigh any perks the cards offer.

"You shouldn't even have one of those reward cards if you're planning on carrying a balance," Rossman said.

Younger millennials ages 18 to 27 were most likely to use credit for small purchases under $10, according to the survey.

The phone survey was conducted between August and September and included 1,002 adults.

More from Personal Finance:
Consumers paying $104 billion in credit card interest and fees
Secrets of credit card super users
Why credit card debt can be bad for your health