Business Model Generation: Pricing model


Let customers buy or earn credits to postpone actual purchases

Illustration of Credits
Run a Credits play


Key Partners Key Activities Value Propositions Customer Relationships Customer Segments
Key Resources Channels
Cost Structures Revenue Streams
The business model canvas was designed by Business Model Fondry AG and distributed under a Creative Commons license.

How: Allow customers to buy or earn credits, letting them purchase on the account without paying cash. Grant discounts for buying larger credit-packs or give out time-limited extra credits following delivery of an initial purchase.

Why: Credits help build both negative working capital and separate the time of purchase from time of use. This makes it possible to apply scarcity tactics (fear of missing out) to get customers to buy more now rather than later.

This business strategy is part of the Business Model Patterns printed card deck.

Proven business models that have driven success for global leaders across industries. Rethink how your business can create, deliver, and capture value.

Get your deck!

Why implement Credit-based purchasing?

From a user’s perspective, the psychological effect of credits is substantial. The deferred payment system allows users to be more liberal with their spending, as the direct connection between payment in a known currency (e.g., dollars) and the spending in credits is lost over time.

This leads to a decrease in the discomfort associated with making payments. Additionally, credit-based purchasing is the model of choice for many popular stock photo websites today, even though some services may not replicate the model in its original form. For example, Shutterstock does not sell credit packs, but their images are still priced according to different plans. Lastly, annual plans offer the best value for money, but come at the cost of a long-term commitment. Ultimately, whether users are willing to make this investment depends on their anticipated number of future purchases.

Where did the Credits business model pattern originate from?

The evolution of the credit-based purchasing model can be traced back to the early days of microstock photography websites. It was iStockphoto, a pioneer in the industry, that first introduced the concept of credits as a payment option. The idea was to encourage users to buy more photos by offering a deferred payment system. This pricing model quickly caught on and was replicated by a host of other similar stock photo services, such as 123RF, Adobe Stock, and Dreamstime. Today, it persists as the dominant payment model for many online stock photo services.

Applying the Credits business model

The concept of credits is relatively straightforward. Clients wishing to purchase photos must first acquire a credit pack, which they can then use to make subsequent purchases. The economy of credit packs is governed by a simple principle: the larger the credit pack, the lower the price per credit. This incentivizes users to make bulk purchases, as they can save money in the long run.



The stock photo database sells credit packs toward future purchases. The larger the pack, the larger the discount.


Subscribers pay in advance for audiobooks as they are granted at least one new credit per month toward purchasing any book.


Canva is a design website that offers a wide variety of templates and images, which can be purchased using their credits system.

PlayStation Plus

PlayStation Plus is a gaming service offered by Sony that provides online gaming and other features through a monthly subscription, as well as the option to purchase individual games or add-ons using credits.


Starbucks uses a rewards program that allows customers to earn “stars” for each purchase, which can then be redeemed for food and drink items at the store.

Trigger Questions

  • How can you use a credit system to get customers to buy in bulk?
  • How can you entice customers to come back, doling out credits toward future discounts.?

This business strategy is part of the Business Model Patterns printed card deck.

Proven business models that have driven success for global leaders across industries. Rethink how your business can create, deliver, and capture value.

Get your deck!

Want to learn more?

Receive a hand picked list of the best reads on building products that matter every week. Curated by Anders Toxboe. Published every Tuesday.

No spam! Unsubscribe with a single click at any time.

Ice Breakers

Relieve initial group awkwardness and establish a safe space


Broaden knowledge or insight regarding the behavior or situation to inform decisions.


Show practical examples or models of the desired behavior for clear guidance.


Highlight current actions and their reasons, bringing unconscious habits to awareness.


Develop necessary skills and competencies to enable effective action.

Community events
Product Loop

Product Loop provides an opportunity for Product professionals and their peers to exchange ideas and experiences about Product Design, Development and Management, Business Modelling, Metrics, User Experience and all the other things that get us excited.

Join our community

Made with in Copenhagen, Denmark

Want to learn more about about good product development, then browse our product playbooks.