Love them or hate them, credit cards are a way of life and an essential part of commerce in the United States and elsewhere.
And it's gotten to the point where not having a credit card can become a handicap for consumers, especially when booking reservations for a hotel, rental car or airline flight.
But according to a new report, over 60 percent of so-called millennials, people ages 18 to 29, do not own credit cards -- compared to the 35 percent of adults ages 30 and older who have also forgone having "plastic" in their wallets and purses.
And according to Bankrate.com (RATE), which commissioned the survey of nearly 1,200 adults living in the continental U.S., millennials are the least likely of any age group to pay their balances in full each month -- while three percent of those young consumers admit to often missing their credit card payments completely.
"Millennials may think they're staying out of financial trouble by forgoing credit cards, but they're actually doing a disservice to themselves and their credit scores," Jeanine Skowronski, Bankrate.com's credit card analyst, said in a press statement.
"The responsible use of credit cards is one of the easiest ways to build a strong credit score," she added, "which is essential for qualifying for insurance policies, auto and mortgage loans, and sometimes even a job."
But it appears economic and generational changes are altering many Americans' perspectives on credit cards. A Gallup Poll released this past April found 29 percent of those polled said they do not own any credit cards, up from 22 percent in 2008, before the Great Recession.
On average, Gallup says, Americans have about three credit cards. But millennials, perhaps cautioned by watching their parents struggle economically during the recession years, appear to be going out of their way to avoid revolving credit.
"Many millennials are already battling with student loans, which likely makes them even more wary of the potential for debt," said Skowronski.
There's also the issue of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, which calls for greater fairness and transparency when it comes to consumer credit debt -- but which also created obstacles for people under 21 to get credit cards.
"I've been able to get along without (credit cards)," 27-year-old Erin Duffy of Omaha, Nebraska, told Princeton Survey Research Associates International, the group responsible for the survey. "I've liked being able to pay for things as I go, not having to worry about missing a bill."
And for some millennials, it's simply a lifestyle choice.
"I don't really feel like there's a need for one in the way I live my life," Melissa Pileiro, a 24-year-old from Vineland, New Jersey, told the pollsters "The idea with a credit card is you're essentially putting money down that you don't have."