NEW YORK (9/12/14)--Millennials are carrying around much less plastic than their older counterparts, a study from Bankrate.com has found, as 63% of people ages 18 to 29 don't possess a single credit card (USA TODAY Sept. 11).
While this choice could steer many away from the pitfalls of overwhelming debt, the decision to swear off credit cards could inevitably hurt this younger generation, personal finance expert Jean Chatzky told USA TODAY.
Credit scores play critical roles in determining whether a consumer can secure a car loan, how much a consumer will pay for car insurance, or even how he or she will look to prospective employers.
"They are widely considered a mark of how responsible you are as a member of society," said Chatzky. "As far as for car insurance goes, your credit history is a better indicator of risk than even your driving record."
On the other side of the coin, as consumers get older, credit card use climbs. The study found that only 35% of adults 30-and-over don't possess a credit card.
The reason for the disparity, perhaps, is that millennials simply don't want credit cards.
"I don't really feel like there's a need for one in the way I live my life," Melissa Pileiro, 24, from Vineland, N.J., told Bankrate.com. "The idea with a credit card is you're essentially putting money down that you don't have."
Further, a Gallup poll from earlier this year found that Americans' reliance on credit cards in general has declined over the past few years since the economic downturn.
The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 also made it more difficult for those under 21 to gain access to a credit card.
Finally, it could be that because many millennials grew up during the recession, they saw the problems credit cards could create, according to David Pommerehn, senior counsel with the Consumer Bankers Association (Bankrate.com).
"There was great concern about jobs and debts and paying off bills," he said.
But no matter the reason for shying away from credit cards, paying with plastic remains one of the top ways to build a solid credit score.
Millennials "have to understand that it costs you money not to use credit, just as it costs you money to use credit," Mike Sullivan, director of education at nonprofit credit and debit counseling agency Take Charge America, told Bankrate.com.
No or low credit scores won't help consumers qualify for low loan rates, he said.