Many consumers dislike paying an annual fee for credit cards but see no issue in paying for credit monitoring or for foreign exchange services, new research suggests.
New York-based management consulting firm Auriemma Consulting Group conducted the research through an online survey of 428 credit cardholders in May. The surveyed included questions about 11 different types of credit card fees, including annual fees, balance-transfer fees, cash-advance fees, late fees, inactivity fees and over-limit fees.
Nearly half of respondents ranked annual fees, even though only 25% actually paid them, as the most bothersome, with 47% noting they had paid some type of fee on their credit card within the past 12 months, with annual and late fees being the most prevalent at 25% and 20% respectively, according to Auriemma’s most recent U.S. Cardbeat market research report.
Of the 25% of participants who said annual fees were most prevalent, the average annual amount paid was $70, which 45% of survey participants contended was too high.
Additionally, 43% participants said annual fees are the most important feature they look for when applying for a new card; the annual percentage rate ranked a close second at 39%. Rewards programs were the least-important feature when applying for a new card, cited by 58% of respondents.
Auriemma presented survey participants with six different hypothetical credit cards and asked them to choose the card that had the most value. Of the six cards, 61% preferred the two cards with no annual fee, and 33% preferred the typical rewards card with 1% cash back, a 14.9% annual percentage rate and no annual fee.
The two cards with comparatively generous rewards programs but high annual fees were the least-attractive offers, with only 9% of respondents selecting them.
That consumers have an “aversion” to annual fees is not new information, Nancy Stahl, Cardbeat editor, said via an e-mail. In fact, a June 2009 Cardbeat survey found consumers disliked “anything that will increase the cost of credit cards.”
“We are in a society where people expect things for free, such as checking accounts and credit cards,” Stahl said. “Consumers are not willing to accept upfront fees for services in which they feel entitled to receive, such as account initiation, inactivity and annual fees.”
Consumers, however, will have to deal with their aversion because “in the short term, annual fees will remain the same or even increase,” Stahl said. “We do not see annual fees being lowered any time soon.”
Indeed, avoiding annual fees may become difficult. Though only about 20% of credit cards in the United States have an annual fee, the percentage most likely will increase “as many current direct-mail card offers are for premium cards loaded with fee-based rewards programs and other fees, Stahl said.
To alleviate consumers’ dislike of annual fees, issuers most likely will begin offering consumers “more and different kinds of rewards programs to demonstrate the value that warrants an annual fee,” Stahl surmised.
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