I have not used a credit card in over two years. So far, I have yet to find myself in a situtation where I had to use my credit card. (I still have one, active, credit card account. I keep my card tucked away in my wallet. I’m not sure it actually works anymore. I do not plan to find out.) I do not advocate closing credit card accounts. I have an account that is open and in good standing. I just don’t use it. What have I learned about NOT using my credit card?
Ninety-nine percent of the time, a debit card works just as well as a credit card. (Please, no comments about the security features of a credit card vs a debit card. Evil people will do evil things with whatever tools they can find. Every single person on the face of the planet is one step away from having all of their financial information exposed, exploited, and abused. If you entertain the idea that you are somehow “safe” from the realities of identity theft and fraud simply because you use a credit card, you are sadly mistaken. The true pain of identity theft has as much to do with the “violation” as it does with the amount of money stolen. Many banks are stepping up to the plate to give the same protections to debit cards as they do to credit cards. Be smart, shop with reputable people, and cross your fingers.)
Writing a check or spending cash at a grocery store will make you feel one of two things: Foolish OR Empowered. I love to stand in line, with people behind me waiting to check out, and count out my exact change to the cashier. Contrary to popular belief, this takes just about the same amount of time as it does to swipe a card, grab a pen, sign a receipt and put the card back in your wallet. Also, spending $100 in cash “hurts” a little bit more than swiping a card for $100, and it keeps me disciplined.
I have reserved automobile rentals and hotel rooms without any hassle using my debit card. I then pay my bill in cash or with a check.
I never get a bill from a credit card company.
I never have to worry about late fees, lost payments, finance charges, messed up accounting, or interest rates.
I miss out on cash back, rebates, and credit card rewards. Oh well.
I have not found that many places give discounts for using cash. In fact, most places would rather that you use “in-house” financing. But, in person-to-person transactions, cash rules. I’ve paid for auto washes, yard work, and plumbing with cash, and received a discount each time.
Paying cash for a dinner with a group of friends is always interesting. In almost every case, if I pick up the check, it starts a conversation. People are simply amazed that I don’t use plastic. Some are actually “offended” by the fact that I don’t take advantage of the “float”. I’ve had more than one person tell me that I’m “crazy”. On the other hand, I’ve had a bunch of people say, “Man, I’d love to live that way. I use my credit card way too much, I’m behind, I’m broke…”
It feels cool to have some real money in your pocket.
Did I mention that I get no bills from credit card companies? Oh yeah, I said that already. Just checking.
I have tried several “cash management” systems, but an old fashioned money clip works the best for me. I wrap my “folding money” around my license and my debit card, and I’m good to go. I usually just leave my wallet in the glove box.
I use online bill pay and I only have to write about 6 paper checks per month. I’m going to move to a system where I pay our daycare provider via online bill pay, and I’ll be down to 2 paper checks per month.
People tout the “organizational” benefits of credit cards. I simply keep receipts and bill stubs, and I have my online bill pay records for taxes.
Final word: I really, really enjoy the freedom of not having to use a credit card. I like having and using actual money. Truth be told, I enjoy being a bit of an “oddball”. Cash rules!
Edit: In response to all of the feedback and comments (Thanks Lifehacker!), I’ve written this post: People Sure Do Love Their Credit Cards. Take a second and check it out!
Edit: When I moved my site, the comments were deleted. Sorry!