Rewards Credit Card or Balance Transfer? Favorites Vary by State, Study Shows

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When it comes to credit cards, Californians and New Yorkers love their travel rewards, while Texans and Floridians prefer to get cash back.

Those are some of the findings from an analysis of more than a million visits to NerdWallet.com’s credit card pages. The analysis looks at where visitors come from and which cards are clicked on most.

Of the seven types of cards that were tracked — cash-back, balance-transfer, travel rewards, secured, student, cash-back for businesses and travel cards for businesses — three stood out. Here they are in order, beginning with the most popular.

Cash-back credit cards

Cash-back credit cards are the most popular among NerdWallet visitors in more states than any other type, according to the analysis. These cards offer redeemable cash for every dollar charged, which can make them easier to use and more flexible than other rewards cards that require you to consider conversion rates. Note that these cards typically have a higher annual percentage rate than other types, so they’re best for people who consistently pay their balances off in full each month so no interest charges accrue.

Cash-back cards are the most popular in the following 27 states: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Balance-transfer credit cards

Balance-transfer cards allow people to move one or more high-interest balances into a single account, usually for a fee as a percentage of the total balances moved. The new account has low or no interest for an introductory period of about 12 to 18 months, so cardholders can pay down the principal of their transferred balances. Typically, only people with good or excellent credit are approved for balance-transfer credit cards.

Balance-transfer credit cards are the most popular in the following 15 states: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Travel rewards credit cards

The exact perks depend on the account, but generally, travel cards offer rewards that can be redeemed for free or discounted flights or hotel stays. These cards typically charge no foreign transaction fees, usually offer sign-up bonuses and may include perks such as free checked bags or airport-lounge access. Annual fees range from $0 to $450. The higher the fee, the greater the rewards and perks. The average travel card charges an annual fee of about $150, with the premium cards averaging around $450.

Travel cards are the most popular in the following eight states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

To learn how to choose the best credit card type for you, and to see this report’s full methodology, read our full study on popular types of credit cards by state.

Courtney Miller is a data analyst at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: courtney.miller@nerdwallet.com. Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: lmcmullen@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.