SAN JOSE, CA: A majority of US Millennials use credit cards to maintain the sort of life they want and half own three or more cards, according to new research.

A survey of 1,000 US consumers over the age of 17 by analytic software firm FICO found that 83% of 25-34 year olds depended on their cards to fund their lifestyle.

Three in ten (31%) carried over a balance of $1,000 and $4,999 each month – significantly more than all the other age groups, where only around two in ten (22- 23%) held the same debt level.

This age group also had more balances in the $5,000-$9,999 range but fell to second place when balances went over $10,000, where top spot went to 35-49 year olds.

Some 49% held between three and five credit cards, so lenders are competing for share of wallet. The survey highlighted a high degree of churn among Millennials, with 37% "very likely" to apply for a new credit card during the next six months.

The main features they look for include: no annual fee (75%), low interest rate (71%) and cash back rewards (71%).

"Credit cards that offer low cost-of-use are favoured by this demographic," said Joshua Schnoll, senior director for FICO.

"Segmentation here is very important, so the right product at the right risk level is marketed to the right customer," he added. "Banks need to make sure that Millennials want their card and choose it at the point-of-purchase."

As well as financial incentives, Millennials consider security and flexibility. More than half want credit cards that offer account notifications (56%) and enhanced security (53%).

And just less than half were interested in "self-managing" credit card controls, with 47% wanting a facility to turn on or off the use of their card at certain merchants, while 45% wanted to be able to control the type of purchases made on their cards.

A poor mobile banking experience is also likely to see them switch banks more than other age groups. "Ensuring you communicate with Millennials in the channels they prefer can convert them into loyal customers," Schnoll noted.

Data sourced from FICO; additional content by Warc staff