Home > Credit 101 > 5 Credit Card Habits of Successful People

Comments 3 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


Seems like the rich are different than the rest of us, and it’s not just in the way they handle money. They also handle credit cards differently. Tom Corley, author of the best-selling book Rich Habits: The Daily Habits of Successful People, has been studying the habits of wealthy people versus poor people and has uncovered some stark differences in the way they handle credit cards. Here are five:

1. They Use Fewer Credit Cards

In Corley’s research, he found that only 8% of rich people used more than one card, while 77% of poor people did. “Successful people only use one or two credit cards,” says Mikelann Valterra, a money coach and co-founder of MoneyMinderOnline.com. “They don’t spread their spending around. The more cards you use, the more of a money fog you are in. Successful people know this.”

2. They Pay Their Balances in Full

While 90% of poor people in Corley’s research carried balances, only 5% of rich people did. In fact 88% of the poor in his survey carried credit card balances larger than $5,000 while only 5% of the rich had large balances. They likely know that credit card debt is expensive, and that you can improve your credit score without debt.

Of course, another explanation is that the rich have more disposable income and therefore are able to pay their bills in full, while others carry debt because they have difficulty paying for their monthly expenses. But planning can help, too.

“Successful people save money every month for “periodic expenses” like car repair and property taxes,” says Valterra. “That way they are never caught carrying a balance on their credit card, just because their purchases in a particular month were unusually high due to these periodic expenses.”

3. They Pay on Time

Sixty-seven percent of the poor had at least one late payment in the last year, while the rich survey respondents had none. Again, this can be the result of having the cash flow to pay on time, but sometimes it’s simply a matter of developing the habit of paying on time. This habit pays off in a number of ways. Cardholders avoid expensive late fees and build high credit scores, which in turn help them get lower interest rates when they do borrow.

Paying on time is what Corley calls a “Rich Habit,” and in his book Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Successful and Happy, he writes: “The key to happiness and success in life is to make sure that more than 50% of your daily habits are Rich Habits. When more than 50% of your daily habits are Poverty Habits, it tips the seesaw in the wrong direction and life will be unhappy and you will struggle financially.”

4. They Use Reward Cards to Their Advantage

When it comes to reward points or dollars, 81% of the rich said they had them, while only 9% of the poor did. Cardholders who use reward cards and pay the balances in full come out ahead; they truly get something for nothing. But that doesn’t mean they overspend just to earn rewards.

“Successful people track their credit card spending so they don’t lose track of what they spend,” Valterra says. “They understand that people tend to spend more when they use a credit card, and so to combat this natural tendency, they plan their spending and then track their credit card purchases to stay in touch with their spending.”

5. They Know Their Credit Score

Corley found that 77% of the rich knew their credit scores, while only 5% of the poor did. This may not be a credit card habit per se, but it’s closely related. Knowing their credit scores allows the the rich to take advantage of the best deals, including premium reward cards, and to spot problems quickly — including identity theft. (Consumers can get a free credit score updated every 14 days on Credit.com.) It can also reinforce good habits: a strong or upward trending credit score tells them they are on the right track.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: Blend Images

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team