financial literacy, credit cards, financial behavior, consumers


In this study, we use a measure of financial literacy that includes both a test score of actual financial literacy and a self-rating of perceived financial literacy to investigate how financial literacy affects five credit card behaviors: (1) always paying a credit card balance in full; (2) carrying over a credit card balance and being charged interest; (3) making only a minimum payment on a credit card balance; (4) being charged a fee for a late payment; and (5) being charged a fee for exceeding a credit limit. Probit analysis was used to assess each behavior with a large nationally representative sample of U.S. adults (N = 28,146) divided into groups to reflect the five major decades in the adult life cycle (18–29; 30–39; 40–49; 50–59; and 60–69 and older). Perceived financial literacy was found to be a stronger predictor of less costly practices in credit card use than actual financial literacy for the five credit card behaviors and across each of the five age groups. The study also shows that the combination of the subjective assessment with the objective assessment of financial literacy provides a more comprehensive analysis of how financial literacy affects each credit card behavior. This combined approach to assessment produced the largest estimates of the effects of financial literacy on credit card behavior. The findings hold across the five credit card behaviors and the five age groups.



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