Nationally syndicated personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary thinks you’re a sucker for using your credit cards, even if you pay off your bills in full each month.
Here’s the gist of her argument:
I’m reasonably sure that many people do not make the same purchases when they pay with plastic. This isn’t just a feeling or anecdotal evidence. Researchers have found that people’s willingness to purchase more products or services increases with the use of plastic.
In their groundbreaking research, Drazen Prelec and Duncan Simester of the Sloan School of Management at MIT found that study subjects paid more when instructed to use a credit card rather than cash. In fact, they found people were willing to pay up to 100 percent more with plastic.
Credit cards empower us to spend more on the same junk we would normally buy with cash. According to science, this has many causes:
- The delayed payment makes us treat credit differently from cash.
- Charging several items to a card doesn’t help you identify overspending on any single item.
- Forking out cash provides a strong visual clue that your wallet is getting lighter.
Singletary ultimately argues that credit may be fine, so long as you realize that it may exacerbate spending. She challenges all non-believers to put down their cards for a month and pay only with cash, and then compare their spending to previous months.
What do you think?