30% of credit card users never redeem their card's rewards. While 38% redeem rewards within six months, only about 24% of card users overall are willing to pay the monthly fee typically required to earn rewards. Among those who have rewards cards and use their rewards regularly 49% exchanged points for cash, 17% picked up airline tickets and 12% used rewards points on gift cards. "Credit card rewards don't usually gain value over time," said Robin Saks Frankel, a credit card analyst at Bankrate.com, "In fact, they're more likely to lose value as companies require more points or miles for the same perks. Your best move is to cash them in regularly." According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York total household debt increased by $226 billion (or 1.8%) to $12.58 trillion during the fourth quarter of 2016. That's the largest quarterly increase in total household debt since 2013 and $460 billion more than a year earlier. It also put debt just 0.8% below its peak of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008. High fees along with imminent rate hikes and climbing household debt have created a perfect storm at odds with the perceived advantages of rewards cards.
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