Can You Become A Millionaire By Using Credit Cards?

by Guest Contributor

This is a guest post by Ryan Guina who writes about personal finance and career advice on his site, Cash Money Life and about military members and their finances on The Military Wallet.

Can credit cards make you a millionaire?Credit cards get a bad wrap. Too many people claim credit cards are evil, when nothing is further from the truth. Making such a broad statement is the same as saying that guns are evil.

Neither of these is evil, and when used correctly, they can be useful tools. The key is learning how to use them effectively.

How does that relate to becoming a millionaire? Glad you asked, and before we go much further, I’ll answer your the question I asked in the title: No, you can’t use credit cards to become a millionaire.

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But you can use credit cards as part of a balanced financial plan, and depending on your financial habits, using credit cards can actually smooth your path to becoming a millionaire.

The path to millionaire status

Let’s take a look at two things: how to become a millionaire, and how to use credit cards effectively. Once we examine these two tenants of personal finance, we can investigate how using credit cards can help you on your path to becoming a millionaire.

1). There isn’t a trick to becoming a millionaire. You simply need to spend less than you earn, save and invest the difference, and repeat the process. Yes, that is a simplified approach and it takes time,and diligence, but there is no magic formula.

2). The key to effective credit card use: With one major exception, there is only one way I recommend using a credit card, and that is by paying off your balance in full each month. If you aren’t planning on using your credit card like a debit card (only using it when you have the money to cover the purchase in your checking account), then you shouldn’t use a credit card at all. This should be a rule to live by – with one exception – using your credit card to help you get out of debt.

Get out of debt first

You should almost always get out of debt before focusing on investing. And if you are in debt, using a balance transfer credit card may be a good way to reduce your interest rates to 0% to help you repay your debt more quickly.

Let’s take a quick look at how this works: Let’s assume for a minute that you have $10,000 in credit card debt at 20% interest. That means over the course of the year, you will pay approximately $2,000 in interest payments if you are only paying the minimum on your credit card balance.

You will never become wealthy if you are sending that kind of money to credit card companies in the form of interest payments. $2,000 can go a long way toward building your wealth.

The goal, if you want to become wealthy, is to get out of debt as quickly as possible. So if your minimum monthly payment on $10,000 in credit card debt is $100, but most of that goes to cover interest payments, you are wasting time and money.

If you can reduce the interest rate to 0%, then 100% of your payment goes toward reducing the principal on your credit card debt, reducing the amount of time and money it takes to get rid of your credit card debt once and for all.

Begin investing

Once you retire your credit card debt, you should then focus on investing. Why not invest while you are still in credit card debt? Because you most likely won’t be able to beat the guaranteed return on investment that you get when you pay extra on your loans. Imagine earning a guaranteed 20% interest rate on your investments – that is what you will earn when you prepay your credit cards!

There is an exception – you may consider investing in your 401k if you have a company match because an employer match is essentially free money which you don’t want to pass up. Other than that, it is usually best to wait until you are debt free before investing.

Credit cards can actually help you with your investing. How? There are a couple ways, but basically, if you use a cash back credit card, you can earn some serious cash back over the course of the year. My wife and I recently moved into a new home, and through regular spending we have earned close to $1,000 cash back this year. Granted, we have had a few major purchases due to the new house, but this is money we would have spent anyway, so this was cash we can use to open an IRA, fund our daughter’s college savings account, etc. Fidelity also offers an excellent cash rewards credit card which pays 2% cash back and which you can link to your Fidelity brokerage account. This makes it easy to put your cash back to work for you in the long term, and not just fritter it away on random purchases.

Credit cards won’t make you rich, but they can be part of a balanced financial plan. I’m not going to try and convince you that you will become a millionaire by using credit cards. But I will tell you that using credit cards can be wise when you use them properly and apply their benefits to your financial situation.

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This article was written by a guest author. For more information about this author, please see the bio information listed in the article. If you would like to write an article for Money Q&A, please visit our Guest Posting Guidelines page.


Guest Contributor has written 249 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Benjamin

I think Ryan makes a very good point about the “responsible” use of credit cards. My wife and I became 100% debt free a few years ago just prior to getting a mortgage for our home (we are now paying that off). We had completely sworn off credit cards (as taught by Dave Ramsey in his Total Money Makeover Book), but we soon realized that we could use them properly without ever incurring fees and interest (plus get the bonus rewards).

Yes, I understand the argument that you spend more when you use your credit cards, but once you get to a certain level of financial comfort, I don’t think the argument is as strong.

Reply

Hank

Benjamin,

Thanks for the insight. I agree with you 100%. I am a big fan and follower of Dave Ramsey, but I still use my American Express for the points and pay off the balance every month. While the spending more using credit argument is certainly true, when you reach that level of maturity with credit in your financial life, it places less a role for sure. Thanks again!

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K.Seqeuira

Benjamin – I agree. Dave’s argument against credit cards was that most people can’t use them without carrying a balance. Not quite a good enough argument in my opinion. However, it is shown you will spend more with plastic than hard cash because of human behavior – that’s a fact enough if you have the money to cover the extra expenses. BUT – a little hack I do can go a long way. Wrap your credit cards in a $1 bill then stick them in your wallet. Touching the money to get your credit-card out will put you back in the “cash” mindset and help avoid those superfluous purchases.

Enjoy the perks of financial freedom!

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Brent

We use our credit cards as an account payable account that we close out monthly. Every month we pay off the debt and earn points. I also like being able to track how much I am spending for the month. If I can keep my credit cards under $1500-$17000 each month, then we are doing well. Dave Ramsey hates using credits cards and says if you play with fire you will get burnt. We haven’t been burned yet, so we are lucky Dave! There is also better fraud protection when you use a credit card.

Reply

Hank

Brent,

You are actually the first person, besides msyelf, that I have heard who uses their credit card as a budgeting tool. I love it! Thanks!

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Ryan

Thanks for sharing this guest post with your readers, Hank!

Reply

Hank

Great post, Ryan! Thanks man!

Reply

UltimateSmartMoney

Great post. Bottom line is that we need to pay off our debt asap and start investing. I have accumulated about $300 in cash back so far. Still this is an extra cash for me.

Reply

Hank

Ultimate,

The real quesiton becomes, “What do you do with that built up cash back? Do you just spend it willingly? Or, do you take that cash and pay off some of your debt with it?

Reply

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