Why I pay in cash and why you may want to too

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 19, 2014
Updated • Aug 9, 2019

Whenever I'm out to buy something, as opposed to buying online, I pay for all the goods I buy in cash. Instead of handing over a card, swiping a card, or inserting it into a card reader of sorts, I hand over the money directly to the cashier.

I try to do this even in situations where this is uncommon, in hotels for instance if they ask for your credit card. It is usually possible to deposit some money instead of handing over your card and that's what I do normally.

In this article I'm going to lay out the reasons for being against card and digital payment systems.

There is a large drive towards a cashless society where everyone pays by card or digitally with the help of smartphones, watches, or other means of identification.

While that may seem comfortable at first, it introduces a series of problems at the same time.

Lets take a look at some of the issues and find out how cash and non-cash payments differ here.

  1. It is harder to keep track of payments if you pay digitally, at least initially.
  2. There is a chance that you buy more than you can afford.
  3. Fees and commissions may be charged.
  4. You give up control.
  5. With card and digital payments, your information get stored and one can link payments to purchases.
  6. Card and payment information are stored as well, and may be stolen by thieves.

It is harder to keep track of payments if you pay digitally or by card and there is a chance that you buy more than you can afford.

While some people may be able to keep track of all their card and digital payments throughout the month, for instance by keeping a detailed record of all their payments, most likely don't.

This falls in line with the second argument against digital payment systems: buying more than you can afford.

With cash, all you can spend is what you have. That's easy enough to keep an eye on throughout the day or month. With cards and digital payments, many don't really know how much they have left to spend which may lead to debt in the long run.

According to studies, people spend between 12% and 18% more when they are using credit cards.

Fees and commissions

Even though you may not pay fees or commissions while using credit cards, merchants to usually. While you could say that this is the problem of the merchant then, guess who is paying the bill in the end?

With cash payments, there are not any fees or commissions involved. Well, unless your bank charges you for withdrawing money from ATMs for example or directly.


If you have followed the crisis of the Euro you may have seen videos or pictures of people standing in line in front of banks trying to withdraw money to make purchases and regain control over it.

While you give up control when you use banks, you give up even more when cash money is not used anymore.


Cash payments cannot be tracked while card payments can. Every card payment is stored digitally so that anyone with access can not only find out what you bought and how much you paid for it, but also where you bought it and when.


Your payment information may not be stored permanently by companies but they are at the very least until the payment has been processed correctly.

Recent and not so recent attacks on point of sale systems in the United States have shown how dangerous this can become. Home Depot confirmed a breach affecting stores in the US and Canada recently where attackers managed to gain access to 56 million customer payment cards and a hack of Target earlier this year leaked more than 40 million card information.

Closing Words

Card payments are convenient which in my opinion is the only thing that is positive about them. It may sometimes be also more secure especially when it comes to making large payments and depending on where you live and buy.

There may be situations where you need to pay by card. Depending on the country you are living in, credit card payments may be the norm while cash payments are not.

Here in Germany, the majority of customers pay cash when they shop locally while part pays using debit cards. Credit Card payments on the other hand are not even supported by many shops.

In the US, things are different. In 2012, plastic card purchases comprised 66 percent of all in-person sales according to a report published in 2012 by market research firm Javelin Strategy & Research with projections that the figure will increase further in the coming years.

What about you? Do you pay cash or by using cards?

Why I pay in cash and why you should too
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Why I pay in cash and why you should too
The recent Home Depot breach has shown again that card payments are not as secure and private as cash payments.
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  1. Dave Rostov said on May 18, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    I am 67 worked in Bearer bonds till illegal in 1982.I warn the young to protect their privacy especially their finances.The USA must be forced to return to a ‘real money’ cash republic.The Jews controlling international banking and contrived inflation have destroyed our beautiful country in the last 60 years.Thankfully Muslims are moving into the west to accomplish what the Crusades failed to do.600 new Wahabist mosques built in the USA since 9-11 with radical Saudi monies. Jews turning gentile boys into queers and girls into man hating dikes .The USA has to be overthrown.Convert to silver .

    1. A different Martin said on May 18, 2016 at 6:24 pm

      Personally, I’m think of investing in tin foil. I sense that demand may be on the rise.

      1. MerryMarjie said on May 18, 2016 at 8:00 pm

        I think you’re on to something, A different Martin! Can’t imagine that post up there is real, but I do believe anyone starting a post with “I am 67 …” could possibly have missed the part about us being in the 21st century now.

  2. Dwight Stegall said on November 27, 2014 at 2:56 am

    I’m 66 years old and have never had a credit card. They can keep them.

  3. conc3rn3d said on October 17, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    The actual thing with home depot was a complete disregard for computer security altogether. The guy they hired to be their cheif security officer was already being brought up on charges for bringing the computers down at the former company he worked for and they knew about it and this is the same guy who neglected the security @ home depot that lead to the breach in the first place. There were actual IT employees that tried to warn the higher ups because they saw the hole in their security home depot just didn’t care they stupidly thought no one else would find it.

  4. jmt said on October 4, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned bitcoin in this discussion. This form of payment will work much like “cash” in that you can own and transfer it without using a bank or third party — (although, you can use a third party such as Coinbase to make payments, if you like) — and yet it is has the convenience of being digital, and not requiring you to handle physical coins or pieces of “paper.” It can also retain some anonymity, in that you don’t have to give up your personal information (name, address, phone number, etc.) to use it.

    1. Don said on October 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      You’re forgetting about the institutions managing the public ledger. They’re income is from mining at the moment. But eventually mining will become too expensive and they will look for other ways to make income.

      Bitcoin may be a better way. But the general public will not trust bitcoin without the backing of major financial institutions – and those financial institutions will not do it without some exorbitant income.

  5. Kulm said on September 20, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Anyone saying that they don’t care if their transactions are tracked has never lived
    under a totalitarian regime, have never been party to an opposition.
    The cashless system is not being instituted for your convenience, but for theirs.
    It’s amazing to me that people still trust banks, filled as they are with pathological liars and criminals.

  6. batman said on September 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    this discussion is heavily skewed depending on your age.

  7. yoav said on September 20, 2014 at 9:02 am

    I’m a sucker for the convenience angle. Using a card saves so much time, everything else seems insignificant in comparison. I also like not having to calculate exactly how much cash I need every time I go out of the house. As for being tracked…I’m not that interesting. It’s not like we’re all starring in a spy thriller or something…if someone wants to know that I bought 1 kilo of brown rice and some fruits and vegetables last week with my card, then they’re welcome.

  8. sirpaul2 said on September 20, 2014 at 3:08 am

    Go with whatever makes you feel safe(r)! http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~sjm217/papers/oakland14chipandskim.pdf
    Thanks (again) Martin. Food for thought!

  9. MerryMarjie said on September 20, 2014 at 12:44 am

    I thought I was the only dinosaur paying in cash! Although I really don’t have to worry about overspending, it’s nice to know that I won’t be getting a bill at the end of the month for the milk I drank today, and it helps me keep within a reasonable food budget. Although I do pay for some items with a credit card, groceries get paid in cash. I was under the impression that although you could dispute a credit card charge, the same process is not available for debit cards, so I don’t carry a debit card. I was a victim in the Target scam last year and Discover notified me immediately when someone made an online purchase of over $500 with my number; I wasn’t responsible for a penny of it. Still, it’s hard to function without “plastic” these days, but I enjoy paying cash knowing the transaction is finished and I won’t be dealing with it down the road.

    1. Wayfarer said on September 20, 2014 at 2:06 am

      Here, here.

      So many people seem to respond based on where they live – and why not? That’s reasonable. We can all of us only comment on our own experiences.

      But some people need to realise than the USA doesn’t cover the whole of this planet. It’s actually quite a small part and not all US experience can be translated worldwide. And – occasionally – thank god for that.

      I’m in Scotland – my bank does NOT and will not SMS me with every bank card transaction. They provide online facilties, but they’re a pain to access (not impossibe, just something I only do if I have a pressing problem.)

      I do use cards – hard not to these days. But I keep them in a metal wallet. Paranoia? All my friends thought so until a couple of them had their cards remotely read by a rogue supermarket checkout. My own brother had his card compromised at the checkout of a major national supermarket, courtesy of a bent computer-wise employee.

      It’s not all goodness and light – though the banks and financial insitutions would like you to think so. My son worked for a merchant bank for a time. A huge amount of their customer-support correspondence started with the same phrase – that the complainer was the only one to have a problem – a barefaced lie.

      And even if the remedies are 90-odd% efficient – what happens if you’re in that other few percent (millions of people worldwide.) I’m aquainted with one married couple who have spent years trying to sort out an identity theft problem – they’ve been assured 100 times that everything has been sorted out – only to find a month later that it just wasn’t so. In so many financial institutions, one hand doesn’t know – or give a damn – what the other is doing.

      The system isn’t perfect. Whatever the hype, it isn’t anywhere close to perfect. If you don’t belong to that small percentage that have encountered problems and face only corporate platitudes in return, I don’t suppose you care. But – believe me – you WILL care if and when you join that select band.

      1. Rarst said on September 20, 2014 at 1:22 pm

        > I most definitely wouldn’t *want* my bank to send me a SMS with every transaction. Sounds like a security nightmare if something happens to the phone.

        Hardly the only kind of sensitive information that dwells in any modern and actively used smartphone (email, documents, photos, dropbox access, 2factor codes).

        Solution — lock (and encrypt if that sensitive) the phone. Remote wipe when lost.

        People actually use these for like businessy things, problems already solved. :)

      2. Eva said on September 20, 2014 at 2:47 am

        Oh yes, this post is a prime example of “this is how we do things in the US, and clearly everything everywhere in the world must be the same, because we are the default setting”. It’s quite amusing when US tourists in Germany rant about their horrible experience being unable to pay 2 € at the bakery with a credit card… that’s the sort of thing you *really* should research before you travel, no matter from where to what destination.

        I most definitely wouldn’t *want* my bank to send me a SMS with every transaction. Sounds like a security nightmare if something happens to the phone.

  10. A41202813GMAIL said on September 19, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    I Keep Electronic Payments To A Minimum:

    A – A Special 500$ Account For Automatic Water, Electricity, Land Phone And Internet Bills,

    B – 20$ On A Prepaid Mobile Phone, And,

    C – 60$ On A Prepaid Bus Ticket Card.

    That Is It.

    I Do Not Even Use Checks.

    It Is More Expensive, But I Pay For ‘Over The Counter’ Checks Every Time I Need To Withdraw Money From My Main Account.

    Brick And Mortar Hard Cash All The Way, Baby.


    1. A41202813GMAIL said on May 20, 2016 at 2:35 am

      Yeah, It Is An Age Thing.

      If Your Parents Bail You Out Every Single Time You Make A Tech Stupid Life Threatening Choice Without A Second Thought, Why Not Take Advantage Of Them While They Are Still Alive, Right ?

      I Am 59, And My Personal Experience, Since 2007 And With All Kinds Of Corporations In Terms Of Trust, Has Gone Downhill, Really Fast.

      Just Remember, Whatever Is Convenient For You, Is Even More Convenient For Whoever Wants To Bare Fleece You, Period.


  11. Peter CM. said on September 19, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    The US: Canada’s Mexico

    In the US, there’s also the problem of police seizing large-ish amounts of cash they find on people they stop — without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, a warrant, or charges. The law enforcement agency that seizes the cash gets to keep it unless the victim goes to court and affirmatively proves it was legitimately acquired. And in the US, victorious plaintiffs do not recover their actual attorney fees and litigation costs (including travel expenses). The practice is called “civil asset forfeiture” and is an outgrowth of the “War on Drugs.” It’s almost certainly a patent violation of Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process, but US courts haven’t put a definitive end to the practice.

    So, whether you’re a foreigner, an out-of-state traveler, or a local carrying an unusual amount of cash, traditional robbers and thieves are not the only bad guys you have to worry about. If you must carry cash, don’t give cops any excuse to pull you over — although in some locales, merely having out-of-state license plates seems to be excuse enough — and do not voluntarily consent to a warrantless search of your car, your belongings, or your person. It makes the old saw about Mexican cops pulling over American drivers and asking them, “Are you a friend of President Jackson?” — Jackson is on the US $20 bill — seem quaint by comparison.

    More sources:





  12. Don said on September 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    In a cashless society, how does a person live when their card is stolen? Will we walk into our bank and get a new card instantly?

    It takes about two weeks for me to get a replacement card, and longer to get a new card.

    1. Jojo said on September 20, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      In a cashless society, you won’t be using cards. In all likelihood, it will be some kind of biometric check that will allow you to make purchases. Maybe an iris scan? Something related to DNA?

      Cards tend to get lost or stolen, are not impossible to duplicate in most cases and could be lent to other people.

    2. Rarst said on September 20, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      One can (and should really) have a backup card even now, if using them at all. Note that card doesn’t equal account, you can have multiple cards for one account. I get a backup card for free at my bank (main card costs me a bit monthly). I also asked to get them couple months apart so that they don’t expire at the same time.

  13. Don said on September 19, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    I love the convenience and security of using credit cards in the USA!

    I hate that the financial institutions have such a huge piece of the cashless pie! Extravagant profits, archaic infrastructure. Monopoly, no incentive to improve security or efficiency, just pass costs on to the merchants.

    For many years I avoided jumping into the credit card mire. I did not want prices to rise because of merchant credit card fees. But most USA consumers are not that forward thinking, the convenience of credit was too enticing. It became a disadvantage to use cash. I know people who use a credit card even for a small candy.

    People need to be responsible with spending, cash or card.

    The privacy issue is moot because I’m tracked in many other ways. I generally don’t care who knows what I buy.

    The security issue is moot, too – at least in the USA. I feel safer carrying a credit card than $1000 in cash – though it’s because the credit card companies accept responsibility for fraudulent charges. Without that feature, I’d likely use cash. Debit cards do not have that feature; that’s the reason I do not have a debit card.

    The control issue is moot. I’m not going to store cash at home; it’s in a bank. A financial crisis will be a problem for cash and card users.

    1. r3d3ad3 said on October 4, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      Convenience can be blindly justified when it’s seen as a privilege and we lose sight of the past. I think most are missing the overall message of the article…

      A lot of replies make it sounds like the financial institutions of the world are doing consumers a favor by providing these ever useful services in monetary security, privacy, and convenience. The only thing they ask for in return is a meager 10-20% of a revolving balance that is typically paid off each statement by most consumers. In the end a small annual fee and maybe a couple small charges create a fast pass to doing what ever you want on borrowed money… With credit and paper-less transactions we are free of the constraints that physical currency imposes and only then do we control our own fate as we wield our destiny through 0s and 1s.

      Financial Institutions exist only to to take your money through deceit. In the past before bank cards they at least paid consumers interest for “borrowing” funds in the form of a checking account whereas now they hold our funds while giving us a medium for it’s use (typically with limitations) so we still feel like actually exist. Any money deposited today is already spent, either paying someone else back or through investments. It’s a joke to think that these institutions provide any kind of actual consumer services other than a security blanket for a cold reality.

      It’s humbling to realize we just went through a global financial crisis and nothing changed.

      “Iceland’s banking collapse is the biggest, relative to the size of an economy, that any country has ever suffered..” -http://www.economist.com/node/12762027

      It’s even more humbling to realize how badly Iceland was effected and yet as of 2013 the country is widely considered to be completely recovered.

      Honestly…how much control do you have over promised money that is in a sense only debt in itself.

      WELL SAID MARTIN, Thanks for the perspective!

  14. Blue said on September 19, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    I am shocked… simply shocked, this one topic has created more response in a shorter time frame than any other article you’ve written to date. Frankly I thought it was a fluff piece.. … rambling for the sake of rambling… Something I myself tend to do when replying to posts. I don’t even need to say anything because everyone practically said it already, but I would like to add something.

    Subscription companies for services like electronic goods, weekly/monthly publications, will only accept a credit card or debit card transaction. My ISP, Digital Cable TV service, Digital Home phone, mobile phone, are all bundled in a package from a single provider who only accepts credit cards or digital debit cards so using case is impossible.

    Online purchase only take credit cards (ie: eBay via Paypal which is linked electronically to your bank directly or to a credit card), as well as online subscriptions like the donations you requested months ago. Which was only made possible electronically. I am pretty sure no one sent you cash through the mail as you never left that type of information like address or mail box number…

    Beside privacy issues, there is the possibility of hackers gaining our information as with the many recent reports of various companies having customer information stolen. But as with most banks in Canada, transactions not authorized by us with proof will not be charged, so we are protected. As in the USA, fraud: all a client is liable for is $50 deductible regardless of the amount taken. Like someone pointed out, carrying large sums of cash is impractical and once stolen can not be recovered. Whereas credit cards can be cancelled and any unauthorized transactions traced to help catch the thief.

    1. Declan said on September 19, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      You said, ” I don’t even need to say anything because everyone practically said it already, but I would like to add something.”

      I love it, I do that all the time because, what the heck, after it’s all been said, I can always come up with a little more. Like just then.

  15. BGM said on September 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Ha ha! Here is a good reason to pay cash at the airport. When I go to the counter and want to have them check one of my bags, they ask me for $25.00, expecting me to pay with a credit card. But since I don’t have one, I offer them two twenty-dollar bills. And since they can’t make change (because they are not permitted to keep a cash box at all and can’t make change if they wanted), then they have to do one of two things: 1) Don’t let me check bags. 2) Let my bag go for free. I have gotten free service now 4 times in a row, and have never had them to deny my bags (which, if they ever did, they would get a mouth full).
    Now, if you accept to be paid at all, cash ought to be acceptable. Credit cards can be an option, but cash ought to to be absolutely accepted.

  16. jasray said on September 19, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    TIA–sums the theory for NEVER using a credit card. The proponents of digital payments, fail to realize it is IMPOSSIBLE for them to disappear from the planet. Those of us who don’t use candles (our family is off the grid–some thing called solar something) have zero bills, etc. Basically, our family is a “fiction” when it comes to records. I mean, there simply isn’t a trail that can be followed after three flights. Recommend repositioning all cash balances and discarding any identity known as “you.”

  17. George P. Burdell said on September 19, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    I happily used only cash and a debit card for over ten years, but found a good reason to use credit cards: Many home/auto insurance companies base their premium rates on how honest and trustworthy you are. When my insurance company called up a credit report on me they found it blank (no credit in previous decade). I didn’t care about this until my insurance agent pointed out the big discount they offer to people who are trustworthy, and can prove it by a credit report. It got humorous when I found that you can’t get a decent credit card if you don’t already have good credit. Catch-22! I had to pull strings with my financial institutions to get credit cards issued based on my cash balances and personal relationships.

    Now I use credit cards whenever I would formerly have used a debit card. At month-end, the credit card balance automatically gets paid in full out of the exact same account that used to be tied to a debit card. So, the merchants get paid, my credit report is spotless, my home/auto insurance discount is helpful, and cash comes out of my account a month or two later than it used to. That last point seems like it should hurt somebody, but I don’t know who!

    1. Jan said on September 20, 2014 at 5:00 am

      My reaction reading this is more against the practices of these kind of insurance companies…
      I do seriously believe that “everyone pursuing its own interest = absolutely not what would be best for most”

  18. Rick said on September 19, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    In Canada, it’s not the government pressing for epayments – it’s retailer and the Banks.

    Canadian banks have to pay a cash handling fee to the Band of Canada that is in the billions in a year. Flowing the physical money from the treasury does have a significant cost! (new bills / the destruction of old etc).

    For retailers, the cost of cash is significantly more than your might think. This article is very good at explaining


  19. Kulm said on September 19, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Why the big push to go cashless?
    Because governments can’t track cash transactions.
    You can’t tax what you can’t track.

    1. Jan said on September 20, 2014 at 4:57 am


  20. Rick said on September 19, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Does someone have an offshore bank account? lol

  21. Dante said on September 19, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I’m waiting for the iPhone payment systems to catch on. With the legendary iOS security, I’m pretty sure I can finance my retirement with all those iPhones around me :)

  22. Uhtred said on September 19, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    I prefer to use cash and do so for most things. I grew up that way and think you appreciate its value more by holding it in your hand, and going out with a set amount helps cut down on the impulse buys.

    But for major purchases (e.g. new pc or fridge etc,) I will use a card so that I have a record of the transaction & protection of card also.

  23. Andrew said on September 19, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I’m pretty sure you’ve missed the point on just about all of your arguments. I’ve read through some of the comments and I’m sure I’ll repeat what you’ve hopefully already learned.

    1. It is harder to keep track of payments if you pay digitally.

    After you’ve already been shown that you are completely off the mark here, you claim it is easier to keep track of what you bought on that single day. Well you’re right, you got credit cards beat there. If you want to review all your receipts for the day of the cash purchases you made then you can as most credit card purchases do not get displayed by banks/software/internet accounts for a day or two. However, you are also capable of getting a printed receipt when paying with a credit card. So your argument is a tie at this point. Credit card statements can usually be downloaded from the internet and stored into programs like Quicken with little to no effort at all. You can keep complete purchase histories very easily with credit card information. With cash you will need to manually transcribe every receipt, but make sure you do it before the ink disappears off those receipts. Receipts fade, receipts get wet, damaged and are can be unusable after time, even if you take the utmost care in preserving them. In this case cash completely fails as a means to keep track of your payments.

    2. There is a chance that you buy more than you can afford.

    Thanks for the study pointing this out, you really did your homework. Now where are the studies showing that people living beyond their means are worse off than people paying with cash? What happens when you run out of cash? You’re far from home and no means to pay for a taxi to get back. If you had a credit card you could buy something you “need” now and pay for it later. Buying more than you can afford is not necessarily a bad thing. Don’t have enough cash for that medicine you need? Have fun being sick that much longer. Cash may be a necessary thing for essentials, paying the electric bill, paying for water if those companies do not allow you to use credit. But if you’re out of cash after those 2 things and cannot afford to eat? Good luck with that. Living paycheck to paycheck is a tough living situation and “living off of credit” can allow people to survive that much longer. Yes there will be people that abuse this option, but that is their decision. For others it is an option that helps save their lives.

    3. Fees and commissions.

    You conveniently ignore the fees imposed by a cash society. Need to deposit your business’s cash into a bank? Unless you’re walking there then you have a fee to get there called gas. Some banks charge fees for a business account even if it is a cash-only business. As others have pointed out, this also applies to the consumer, gas to get to the bank/ATM. There are even fees to cash your payday check if you do not have a bank account. Turning your paycheck into cash can involve a fee to the consumer (many times the people who do this are are truly cashless and do not have a bank account), yet you claim there are no fees for cash.

    Here’s another story about fees. To drive to a local mall it will cost $5 in gas and $8 in tolls one-way. That is $26 (round trip) just to get to the mall. Money the consumer has to pay. I could have stayed home and bought what I wanted/needed on the internet using my credit card, gotten free shipping and had the items I wanted delivered to my door in 2 days. The perk of using cash is that you get charged a fee to get to your destination in order to have what you want that day. $26 is a pretty steep fee considering if I buy online I’m usually paying less money then they do sell it for in stores, so I’m saving even more.

    4. You give up control.

    I’m not even sure what you are trying to say here because you made it sound like cash is a bad thing with a run on banks. Your point was not made at all you just restated your topic.

    5. With card and digital payments, your information get stored and one can link payments to purchases.

    Ah yes, privacy. Consider this scenario: You get your money from an ATM. Each bill has a unique serial number on it. The ATM records who took each bill by the serial number. You then go to a store and purchase something with that cash. Later that day/week/month the store deposits the cash into a bank. That store is now linked to that serial number which the bank now knows: 1. Person who spent the money 2. Store that the money was spent at. Is that scenario any different than using a credit card? Sure there could be other variables like you gave that money to a friend and he then later spent it.. but guess what your name is tied to it when you took the money out of the ATM. So now you are responsible for everything that ever gets bought with that money which in my opinion is a little scarier than pinning only the purchases I actually make with a credit card on myself.

    6. Card and payment information are stored as well, and may be stolen by thieves.

    People with money can be mugged. People get their wallets and purses stolen on the street/bus/train/restaurant. Theft happens. In the case of Home Depot, 56 million credit card numbers were stolen. What are the odds that your credit card will be used? There are Billions of people on this planet. You are just a number. You are the number 1. 1 out of 56 million who could have had their card stolen. Do you think the thieves are going to attempt to use all 56 million credit cards? Guess how much money people who use credit cards stand to lose: $0. The credit card company will remove any fraudulent charges and reissue you a new credit card. Convenience factor: Possibly a phone call or two, filling out a form online in the comfort of my home. When you are mugged in the street and permanently lose your cash, what is worse, the shock of the mugging that will haunt you for a very long time or the fact that you will never see that money again? Nobody is obligated to give you your cash back. Credit card card companies duty is to keep your charges fraud-free and to bind you to the purchases you actually make.

    Closing words:

    Yes you are correct, credit cards are about convenience. Who wants that? Everyone? Thank you for paying the same price as me and helping support the merchant credit card fees (or actually paying more than me since I purchase things much cheaper online than you can buy with cash at brick and mortar stores.) Thanks to PayPal/AmazonPayments/GoogleWallet I can buy and sell items across the entire WORLD and not have to worry about converting different country’s cash into my own. I don’t even have to leave my house to buy and sell whatever I want.
    I really didn’t even have to try to write responses here. I’ve lived cash free for over a decade and have been convenienced the entire time. What do banks look like inside these days?

    1. Eva said on September 20, 2014 at 2:40 am

      Well, as for the “payday check” – the author says he is German. Here in Germany, checks have fallen out of usage. I’ve never been handed a “paycheck” by any employer, and it’s been probably ten to fifteen years since I’ve even seen a check (at which time I had to research what to do with it, because it was a really outlandish thing to have). Wages arrive automatically in the bank account on the set dates.

    2. John Knaggs said on September 19, 2014 at 7:33 pm


      Sorry, guy, your fantasy about ATMs, banks, or merchants tracking serial numbers on cash just set off my BS Alarm.

      If that is true, why are big time drug deals done with suitcases full of $100 bills?

      Citation needed.

      1. Andrew said on September 19, 2014 at 11:29 pm

        All I did was ask you to consider the plausibility of the situation. The thought that cash transactions are anonymous and private is a myth. You illustrated my point exactly. If a big time drug deal was busted by the police and all of those $100 bills were traced back to the last person to pull them out of a bank or ATM then those people could be prime suspects as people who have bought from the big time drug dealers. This is the type of things that people paranoid about privacy do not consider when they glom onto an single idea like cash is anonymous.

        What is BS about the possibility of tracking unique serial numbers from start to finish?

        BIg time drug dealers sit on mountains of cash possibly for reasons such as this no? They don’t put money in banks, they don’t take money out of banks. It is someone else’s name that is attached to those bills coming out of a bank/ATM.

        I never said this happens, I never said this type of scenario catches criminals. It is merely a talking point against BS talking points of cash == privacy.

    3. Andrew said on September 19, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      One last statement, before you try to say your article was about store purchases and not focused with online purchases.

      At stores I get 1% cash back on all my credit card purchases (yay, rewards card). I get 3-5% back for certain purchases or at certain stores. So yes, I am still paying less than you in every single purchase I make.

      This “cash back” I get is part of the fee that merchants are charged for the ability to do business with me. The merchant still makes a profit (or should), I get convenience and a lower price. If a merchant doesn’t want to pay a fee, they do not get my business, it is as simple as that. There are plenty of other businesses who will happily take my money since they are not losing money.

  24. Tommy said on September 19, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Until chip and pin on cards is the norm in the USA, citizens or visitors are just asking for trouble using them almost anywhere with daily security breaches.


    1. anonymous said on September 20, 2014 at 3:40 am

      RFID chips are not secure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-St_ltH90Oc

  25. Wayfarer said on September 19, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    I’m with Martin – mostly.

    In my experience, when banks want us to move from cash to cards to phones – it’s rarely for our benefit, but for theirs. For people who need every new gadget, and think waving cards and phones at machines is cool, their choice is fine with me. But I don’t like being pushed towards technology and payment methods I didn’t ask for and don’t damned well want – and as a customer I feel not the slightest need to justify that.

    Online (about 25% of my purchasing these days) I pay digitally – rather hard to do otherwise. But on the high street, shops that don’t want my cash can whistle for my business too. What I buy, where I buy it and how I pay is my own business – one reason I don’t touch shop loyalty cards either. I’m retired and disabled and on a limited income, and shopping with a fixed amount of cash in my pocket helps keep me inside a very tight budget. Plus – if my card can be activated by a machine 12 inches away – what’s to stop it being scanned at every street corner? (www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22545804)

    Not everyone who declines new technologies is a luddite from the 19th century. It’s a question of personal choice. And it’s not so much the new technology I object to, but the increasing – and IMHO suspicious – push towards denying me any choice. A choice not helped by sheople who think anyone not rushing headline into every new gadget is by defeinition ‘uncool.’

    Let me pose a question. You lose a wallet/purse with cash in it. Your reaction? Annoyance, the degree varying with the amount, I suppose. You lose a wallet with cards in it, or a smartphone, and your reaction? Panic – that’s what. There may indeed be remedies in place for such problems, but I defy you to tell me your heart doesn’t sink to your boots on such occasions.

    1. Jan said on September 20, 2014 at 4:53 am

      “it’s rarely for our benefit, but for theirs”
      => this apply for a whole bunch of things. That doesn’t mean it can’t benefit us, but that we should always be warry.

      Agree with you about shop loyalty cards btw

    2. Shadess said on September 19, 2014 at 6:04 pm

      Lost my wallet. Didn’t panic, no reason to. Closed the cards, very easy to do. Only very annoying thing really was losing my ID.

  26. Declan said on September 19, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    It would be a good thing to read the news or pay attention to what’s happening globally, not just in your personal account. After they get the watchdogs at the end of your street, they’re coming for you.

  27. Tim Walters said on September 19, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Hi Martin,

    Great article!

    You wrote “In 2012, plastic card purchases compromised 66 percent…”

    Did you mean “comprised”?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 19, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      Right Tim, thanks for letting me know.Fixed.

  28. Marco said on September 19, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    In which century do you live? ;-)
    Also, do you use candles instead of electric light? ;-)
    I’ve been using credit and debit cards since for decades, both offline and online, and I’ve never had a single problem of any kind.
    As for tracking, we’re tracked all the time in every single move/action of our lives anyway, so I don’t bother.
    This is a bit suprising considering it’s coming from someone who likes technology.
    Just saying :-)

    1. Jan said on September 20, 2014 at 4:50 am

      “The direction of history” is more often than not a shitty non-argument (to put it clearly) ; the issue is not what is the trend, but what is the better thing. There are arguments either side, but “live in this century” is never one.
      Btw, not bothering being tracked because you’re still a lot tracked otherwise sounds like bs imo. Total tracking is the direct way to polician state, be it masked or not.

  29. Shadess said on September 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    1 and 2 are complete nonsense. 6 isn’t really a huge problem either.

    Point 1: If you can’t keep track of digital payments then the platform you use sucks balls. The platforms I use are absolutely superior in every possible way of keeping track of payments compared to cash.For example instant digital receipt at time of purchase, monthly/querterly/yearly logs. App in my phone showing graphs. I can look how much money I’ve used every day this week. Nobody can do that with cash unless you have saved every receipt and are at home adding them all up. I can do that when and where I want and without going through ANY trouble.

    Point 2: Tons of people spend more money than they can afford no matter how they pay, have self control.
    Point 6: If something gets stolen the companies are responsible not you and cash can be stolen too.

    Point 3: You do pay for using cash too, it’s not free for the merchant to handle cash. Moving physical money around has costs and the customer pays for that in the prices of products. Still points 3 and 4 are the actual reason we shouldn’t just blindly dive into cashless society. Visa and Mastercard in particular suck and they have had way too much control for way too long. There’ve been instances companies or organizations haven’t broken any laws, yet creditcard companies have denied all payments for them. That is complete BS and shouldn’t be tolerated. Also in a cashless society if they were the only options they could just hike up their % and there’d be nothing we could do.

    1. Shadess said on September 19, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      Oh and not to poop just on Visa and Mastercard…PayPal and Amazon suck too. There was no real reason to block payments to wikileaks except caving into governmental pressure.

  30. clasof56 said on September 19, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    hi martin, its funny to read your timely article today. my wife and my cousin and I were all just talking about credit vrs. cash and all of us are trending more towards the use of cash. too many “breakins” of big box outfits and we just dont want the hassle. online still the cards but in the real world more towards cash. i also see it as a trend. some people are very conscious of computer security..others dont have a clue…..same with cash and credit. i just dont feel like being tracked so much and enjoy living slightly under the radar.

  31. Anonymous said on September 19, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    1 and 2 are complete nonsense. 6 isn’t really a huge problem either.

    Point 1: If you can’t keep track of digital payments then the platform you use sucks balls. The platforms I use are absolutely superior in every possible way of keeping track of payments compared to cash.For example instant digital receipt at time of purchase, monthly/querterly/yearly logs. Not swamped in mountains of paper either.

    Point 2: Tons of people spend more money than they can afford no matter how they pay, have self control.
    Point 6: The companies are responsible not you, if stuff gets stolen. Cash can be stolen too.

    Point 3: You do pay for using cash too, it’s not free for the merchant to handle cash. Moving physical money around has costs and the customer pays for that in the prices of products. Still points 3 and 4 are the actual reason we shouldn’t just blindly dive into cashless society. Visa and Mastercard in particular suck and they have had way too much control for way too long. There’ve been instances companies or organizations haven’t broken any laws, yet creditcard companies have denied all payments for them. That is complete BS and shouldn’t be tolerated.

  32. Hy said on September 19, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    I completely agree with you, Martin, and I do the same. My parents have done so their entire lifetimes as well. That’s fine if people want to keep paying with their cards, but one must always be prepared for the potential fraud. Our visitor to the US from Europe earlier this year went everywhere paying with her card. Suddenly in the middle of her visit her card was being refused, and she had no access to funds. She checked her account online and saw that there was a $700 charge made on her card in New York, hundreds of miles from where she was that day. And unlike US banks, her European bank forced her to pay that fraudulent charge while they investigated. She later did receive reimbursement after a month or more, but she learned her lesson and now pays by cash only as well. With one enormous data breach after another occurring at places such as Target and Home Depot, it’s difficult for me to imagine anyone still wishing to tempt fate and pay with cards. I was the only I knew who was not personally concerned about being a victim in each of these breaches, because I had not been foolish enough to pay by card at these stores. And who wants to pay digitally and create a record for others of their location history and purchase history, anyway? Not me…

    1. alex said on September 20, 2014 at 12:41 am

      Electronic payment systems are complex systems , the result of hundreds of man-years of research, and depending on machines and people to keep working. There is always the chance of accidents, malfunctions, human errors, and also fraud. But they are also tightly controlled and monitored systems to prevent, or catch early the problems. So, according to your logic, since you had a misfortune, and a friend an accident or fraud, you decide to stop using this system.
      Next time you have an accident with your car, or even a flat tyre that will cost you being late in a super important meeting, you may decide to stop using cars. Start walking to work and enjoy a faultless world of transit. Buses, trains, bicycles , also may fail you in the critical moment, ditch them all, even airplanes, who knows when you will have that awful terrorist in the same flight :)
      And your Europe-travelling friend has learned her lesson, heh? So next time she decides to spend a week or so, in a foreign city, she will not bring any cards along? she will keep lets say, 1-2K euros rolled up in her undrerwear and happily stroll the streets, right? or trust the hotel personnel (but not the banks) and leave the cash in the room? or just stop travelling anywhere out of her borough?

  33. Pd said on September 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I’d suggest you’re well off the mark on the first point. It’s much easier to see every payment you’ve made with a card on your bank statement or online. With cash you’d rely on messy receipts and or writing everything down.

    As for spending more than you have, easy solution there: attach your account to a visa debit card. You get the access to payments wherever credit cards are accepted but can only spend what’s in the account.

    I recently changed to visa debit and whilst I do worry about companies tracking my purchases, that’s why I don’t have a loyalty card.

    In short these choices are not as easy as you make out. Broken ATMs running likely insecure software and vulnerable too skimming and so fifth, they have their dangers as well. Wasting extra time and fuel perhaps, to get to ATMs to extract your cash is also an issue. Where once we were scurrying around looking for a working phone box, now it’s an ATM where you won’t incur … wait for it … those very same fees you complain about if you’re forced to use an ATM from a different bank. $2 per transaction in Australia!

    What about when spending money is not a choice but an emergency? Your plan doesn’t cover that!

    Generally I reject articles titled “… and you should too” because I don’t like being dictated to. You have a good track record of writing reasonably sensible articles so I read some of this one. However I’d suggest leaving off that part of the title. Whether we go cashless or just very cash-less is not something you’re going to be able to influence with a headline like that.

    1. bob gawley said on September 19, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      Martin, You have missed one very important point.
      When paying cash, a shop is more willing to give you a substantial discount as they do not have to pay any transaction costs: which can be any where between 3 and 5 percent.
      Here in Finland we are almost a cashless society. I notice in supermarkets, it is usually the elderly that use cash.
      Your point concerning security is a valid and serious problem. I think we will eventually move to a more secure mehtod of paying by cards. Credit or debit. IE; face recognition, eye recognition etc, but for now in Finland ( a low crime country) Card are KING:

      1. elmore said on September 21, 2014 at 12:24 am

        i notice that Home Depot, when you go in the self-checkout line they are videotaping your face and you can see it on the monitor when you are ringing up your items. Doesn’t really bother me for now as i think it might cut down on theft quite a bit. I’m not sure the privacy implications yet.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on September 19, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      You are right that it is easier to track electronically what you paid than having to deal with receipts and all that stuff. What I meant however is something different. During the day or even week, it is easier to keep track of cash transactions.

      Your advice to use a visa debit card makes sense, but overspending does not necessarily mean that you are making debt but also that you spend more money that you have than you would otherwise.

      The next point, ATM costs, depends on the country you are living here. I don’t pay anything to get money from an ATM and here in Germany, you have one every couple of hundred meters at the very least so it is never a problem to get money.

      I have edited the title slightly to change the should to may want to too.

      Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it. It is difficult to write for a worldwide audience when things are handled slightly or even completely different in other countries.

  34. Dukislav said on September 19, 2014 at 10:29 am
  35. Rarst said on September 19, 2014 at 10:11 am

    When I pay with a card I immediately receive SMS with information about payment — receiving company, payment amount, remainder of balance. This makes payments and balance vastly easier to track than cash.

    As for overspending — I simply don’t have any credit open on my cards. Can and willing to only spend money I actually have, I don’t do debt. :)

    On digital traces — while there are privacy implications (hey, so there are in using the Internet), not having them could simply lock me out of important things. For example I typically have to submit financial information to get a visa to another country. I cannot submit “I prefer cash” in its place, can I? :)

  36. Jojo said on September 19, 2014 at 10:04 am

    One of downside of paying cash is it makes you more of a target for robbers to take the cash from you. And depending on how you get that cash you carry, you may have to pay extra fees for each withdrawal here.

    In the USA, the maximum you are responsible for from a stolen CC is $50 and that is only if you don’t report it in time. But I have never heard of anyone actually being charged anything. So we don’t have any real worries if our cards are stolen or lost.

    Also, many cards here offer you year-end cash rebates based on your spending and/or award points/miles/whatever that can be used for travel, auctions, magazines, shopping and so on.

    Additionally, many cards offer various protections, such as 30 days against theft and extended warranty periods (usually double whatever the manufacturer offers up to one year). It’s all in the fine print that almost no one actually reads.

    Point of fact, I have actually benefited from the extended warranty a number of times. Last time around, my HTC phone died 1 year and 25 days after purchase. That is 25 days too late for the normal warranty! So having brought that phone with my American Express card, which I know has the extended warranty, I contacted them and 10 days later had a check for the original full purchase price of the old phone. I used the check to by my Nexus 5.

    Cash is going away in the USA.

    1. Jan said on September 20, 2014 at 4:41 am

      Well, the customer pays always everything in the end.
      It’s just than instead of directly charging the one who was stolen, it’s everyone in the bank which pay a very small fee for it, without even realizing.

      1. nan said on November 9, 2014 at 11:36 pm

        The distributed risk here isn’t capitalism, but a type of insurance scheme. Customers paying-to-pay with money funneled to a profit-extracting central entity is capitalism, in this case (as well as oligopoly). The payment system owned and run by banks is the means of service provision (aka production – all products are bundles of services).

      2. elmore said on September 21, 2014 at 12:20 am

        i dont think that has anything to do with capitalism.

      3. Jojo said on September 20, 2014 at 7:26 pm

        Certainly. That is how Capitalism works. [roflol]

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