When you start to research this topic, almost every hit you get on the internet comes from one of two places; either banks and credit card companies that want you to sign up for a credit card, or “informational and review” sites that profit from referring you to a bank or credit card company to sign up for a card. The travel reward sites are even worse. One comment referred to them as “A literal who’s who of scumbag credit card shills masquerading as travel experts”.

Today you’re going to hear something different.

Some sites tout statistics referring to “average” credit card use. Turns out, there are a bunch of different ways to calculate these averages, but the closest honest value I can find is that the average adult in America with a credit card has about a $5000 balance that they pay interest on. This is every person with a credit card, on average. If you haven’t connected the dots, if you carry a balance and pay interest, you negate all rewards points. They don’t matter. You lost.

Going back to the financial and travel blogs who tout this crap, remember that these people and their commenters make up a fraction of the people using credit cards. The Average Joe reading those blogs has a $5000 balance on his card, remember? And that’s assuming that all the commenters are being truthful. As in….” I pay the balance off every month…except that one month I didn’t, and at Christmas we carry it over til February…” etc. Fail.

According to a recent Forbes article, the best cashback rewards card earned their average user $460 over two years. Because they all have higher first-year returns (to hook you in) the rewards drop substantially beyond that. And that’s the best one. This is the discussion we’re having all across America. About $200 a year on average. No matter what percentage they say you get. It’s a game. It’s THEIR game. They invented it and they are the one’s profiting from it.

Think about it. It’s just like Vegas. The House wins much more often that the schmoes playing the game. They have to or they wouldn’t stay in business. An article on Business Insider sums it all up perfectly: “These programs are not designed to make credit card users money, but rather for credit card companies to make more money.”