Just as many big bank credit and debit card issuers are cutting back or even eliminating their card rewards programs, credit unions are finding their members are using rewards programs more and differently.

While there has been some change in the way cardholders have viewed and used merchandise and so-called relationship rewards, credit union and processor executives report that the biggest changes are in the way cardholders appear to use travel rewards.

"What we are seeing is the rise of the mini-vacation and the role travel rewards points are playing in those trips," commented Dennis Driscoll, vice president of loyalty services for Fidelity National Information Services. "What they are doing is maybe renting a car, driving to someplace not too far away that let's them have an experience away from home and their routine and they are often using their rewards points to pay for all or part of that."

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