Credit card use continues to boom, and it's unclear whether this is due to banks' willingness to offer people with the highest credit rating more money or consumers who feel better about the economy and would rather use plastic than PayPal or some other form of direct cash payment service.
Card use is up this year with more than 170 million consumers having access to bank cards -- the highest number since 2005, according to TransUnion. (The report was released prior to the Equifax hack.)
With the increase in card use comes an increase in banks and credit agencies spending more on search advertising and marketing to attract consumers despite a higher concentration of people going direct to credit card and personal banking sites to find the best deals.
Banking remains the most concentrated of all the finance categories, with desktop and mobile traffic to the top five banking sites totaling more than the traffic to the rest of the top 50 sites put together, according to a recent SimilarWeb finance report, US Finance Trends & Insights 2017, which analyzes the digital performance of finance brands across several categories, including banking, insurance, personal finance and taxes.
American Express gets most of its website traffic direct, meaning that consumers will type in the American Express URL directly into the browser. Organic is the next most popular way to reach the credit card company. Discover, on the other hand, sees more of its website traffic come from direct searches, followed by referrals.
Credit Karma seems to attract a high concentration of millennial and mobile users who want to access the brand's suite of credit tools and tailored financial recommendations. In a separate report, SimilarWeb details how the company has gained nearly 61 million monthly users, mostly from direct and search-related campaigns. This is supported by the high proportion of branded search traffic that includes some variation of the term "credit karma." Even within paid search, the majority of keywords are branded, showing the company defending its brand name from competitors.
The largest volume of traffic to creditkarma.com Direct traffic accounts for almost 60% of visits to the site. Sites like nerdwallet.com and creditcards.com receive less than 15% of direct traffic. Credit Karma’s share of direct traffic together with the huge volume of total traffic to the site is an indication of high brand recognition, according to the report. This is further supported by the high proportion of branded search traffic that includes some variation of the term "credit karma."
In terms of visits to personal banking sites, Friday seems to be the most popular day for traffic, with Sunday the least popular day.
Seventy-five percent of traffic to personal banking sites comes direct -- higher than any other finance category -- and 2.7 times more visits are made to the top three bank sites from searches for credit cards than for mortgages or loans. Organic search is the second highest source of traffic, with referrals and others trailing.
SimilarWeb didn't share actual conversion rates, but reported the traffic share between January 2017 and June 2017. Here are the top five: Chase.com had 1.2 billion visitors accounting for 24.8% of traffic share; Wellsfargo.com, nearly 1.2 billion visitors accounting for 23.7% of traffic share; bankofamerica.com, 940 million visitors accounting for 19.2% of traffic share; capitalone.com, 539 million visitors accounting for nearly 11%; and citi.com, about 491 million visitors accounting for 7.2% of market share.
The report also suggests that online-only banks have begun to offer serious competition to traditional banks because they have reduced overhead that enables them to offer lower fees and better rates, but no online-only bank has managed to gain enough traction to break into the top ten.