Is It Worth Chasing Credit Card Rewards If You're In Debt?

Two out of three Americans in debt are chasing credit card rewards. Do your brain a favor and try this instead.

A man in a suit chases a carrot that is connected to his back.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Chasing credit card rewards when you're in debt is surprisingly common. Two-thirds of Americans in debt try to maximize their credit card rewards, according to a new study by Bankrate. It's tempting to rack up miles or points to earn a vacation or cash back, but there's no way to win at that game if you're in debt. 

"Chasing rewards while you’re in debt is a big mistake, says Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate. "The average credit card rate is a record-high 20.75%. The typical rewards payout is in the 1 to 5% range. It doesn’t make sense to pay 20% or more in interest just to earn 1, 2 or even 5% in cash back or airline miles." 

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Ellen Kennedy
Personal Finance Editor,

Ellen writes and edits personal finance stories, especially on credit cards and related products. She also covers the nexus between sustainability and personal finance. She was a manager and sustainability analyst at Calvert Investments for 15 years, focusing on climate change and consumer staples. She served on the sustainability councils of several Fortune 500 companies and led corporate engagements. Before joining Calvert, Ellen was a program officer for Winrock International, managing loans to alternative energy projects in Latin America. She earned a master’s from the U.C. Berkeley in international relations and Latin America.