Which Transaction Is Faster For Small Purchases: Cash Or Credit?

Since we began writing about credit card companies now allowing merchants to require minimum purchases for credit transactions, we’ve received feedback from readers in both the comments and in the tipline about how credit cards are faster and more efficient than cash. At the same time, there are those who swear by cash when it comes to making purchases of only a few dollars. So which is it?

The main advantage to credit cards in terms of expediency is that the customer doesn’t have to fumble around for their wallet, count out the dollars and cents, hand to the cashier, who then has to count again and make change if necessary.

Those on the pro-cash side seem to have had numerous bad experiences with card processing equipment that is slow or malfunctioning. And then there are the stores that require signatures on credit card purchases, which some say makes the line move more slowly than just paying in cash.

Where do you come down on this debate?

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. ap0 says:

    I personally enjoy counting my sense at the register.

    • ARP says:

      I can’t tell if you’re making a joke or not by use of cents v. sense

      If it’s a joke, then if you have to count it, then you probably don’t have any…..that wasn’t as fun as I had hoped.

      • trentblase says:

        My default is credit for the speed, protection, and cash back (why pay higher prices that subsidize credit users without taking advantage?). There are factor that tip the scales towards cash:

        Handheld POS (slow) with separate credit slip?
        Small purchase and family-run store?
        Automatic change dispenser?

  2. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I think it depends. Some businesses have credit card machines that still just dial out on regular modems over POTS, others have a quick internet turnaround. Some businesses hire cashiers that know math and are quick with cash, some businesses don’t.

    You know what’s always fast, though? Drawings of spiders.

    • FatLynn says:

      This is a great point. How fast can someone count out your change, and/or do you have small bills?

      • DustingWhale says:

        Worked @ one of the busier Startbucks in the Seattle area during my college years. Cash was always faster, unless the customer isn’t ready. Then its a toss-up. Eitherway, I hated making small talk over the drone of the credit card machine printer – and corporate won’t allow tips on credit cards, so we didn’t like them for multiple reasons.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Agreed, totally depends. If it’s a place that doesn’t require a signature, and has nearly instant approval, then credit is faster. If it’s a dialup modem, they need to print out the receipt, and you have to sign, then cash.

  3. ARP says:

    If you don’t have to sign (which you usually don’t now), CC.

  4. Platypi {Redacted} says:

    Debit?

  5. ShruggingGalt says:

    CC if it’s under $25 now. With the no-signing ability.

    Of course it’ll go back to cash winning when we switch to chip&pin in a few years (I’m still betting that by the end of the year it’ll be mandated by the new PCI standard, so within 3 years it’ll be out in the field with 100% usage)

    • Orv says:

      +1

      I still often pay cash, though. I feel weird whipping out a credit card for a purchase under $10.

      • oblivious87 says:

        This is probably where younger generations differ from older generations, sorry for assuming your not in the 18-28 year old range, but I don’t know very many people my age that see this as an issue.

        My mom thinks I’m insane when I’ll pay for something that is $2 with my card. Some of my friends will use their debit cards for smaller purchases, but only because they carry a balance on their credit card.

        I use my credit card as a way to keep my money for longer and earn interest as well as a way to keep myself accountable as 99% of my monthly transactions are done with credit cards (and the remaining can easily be traced back to an ATM withdrawl)…

  6. keepntabs says:

    I usually pay cash when shopping with small local merchants, because I know that they have to pay interchange fees on these small purchases.

    • Bagumpity says:

      Same here. It’s just common courtesy. Those 2% are part of doing business for big-box stores, but they can make the difference a Christmas and no Christmass for a mom & pop local retailer.

  7. keepntabs says:

    I usually pay cash when shopping with small local merchants, because I know that they have to pay interchange fees on these small purchases if a credit card is used.

  8. raybury says:

    I’m just tired of people under 290 who don’t seem to know they can get a debit card from their bank rather than using checks.

  9. XianZomby says:

    I think a distinction should be made about “credit” verses “debit” here. I read the rules as they were laid out in the last post about this subject. As far as I can tell, minimums can be set for credit cards, but not for debit cards.

    I use cash or debit card for everything. I wouldn’t think of swiping a credit card for McDonalds, or a soda at the convenience store.

    Does the new rule apply for debit cards processed as a credit transaction? Is that the deal here? Or are people really using actual credit cards in place of cash for most transactions?

  10. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    A lot of credit POCs have an attachment to the swipe unit where you can wave your card over the scanning portion and it’ll automatically charge your card. It’s issued by the company, and I’ve seen the same scanner used for different cards so every credit card company seems to use the same kind of unit. If you don’t have to sign for it, waving the card is easier than swiping because it also bypasses all of the “would you like to donate” screens.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      POS* not POC. I can has edit button nao tat I cannot afford cheezburger?

    • ShruggingGalt says:

      Your CC company has to issue a card that has chip&pin. Although the PIN part isn’t being used in the U.S. yet.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        And I hope it *NEVER* gains traction here. Chip & Pin is a way for the credit card company to completely disclaim all liability for fraudulent purchases while providing even *LESS* protection than our existing system.

        • ShruggingGalt says:

          Unfortunately, the rest of the world wants the U.S. to stop sending money to scammers overseas, since most of the stolen credit card #s come from the U.S.

          Never mind that the same banks that want it to stop are also the ones allowing the scammers to get merchant accounts to funnel the money…..

  11. pantheonoutcast says:

    Credit: Swipe card, choose Credit, wait for authorization, press OK, press OK again for some reason, wait for receipt to be printed, sign receipt (or sign the touch screen and still wait for receipt to be printed). Leave.

    Debit: Swipe card, choose Debit, type in PIN, wait for authorization, Press OK to authorize amount, press yes or no for cash back, wait for receipt. Leave.

    Cash: Hand cashier a $10 bill. Cashier types in $10 and the change amount appears on the register’s screen. Receive change and receipt at same time. Leave.

    I think the answer is obvious.

    • ARP says:

      pay by check?

      Seriously, if there’s no signature (which there usually isn’t for purchases under $25), I would put cash and credit about even. It really depends on the system/ cashier. For example, at Chipotle, the swipe the card and the receipt begins printing almost immediately. If it has to dial out, it takes much longer and cash wins.

    • justagigilo85 says:

      “Cash: Hand cashier a $10 bill. Cashier types in $10 and the change amount appears on the register’s screen. Receive change and receipt at same time. Leave.”

      It’s not always that simple.

      If you have a bill for 7.27 and you had the cashier $10.02 after you spent 5 minutes looking for two freaking pennies and after she/he shit $10.00 CASH on the register AND they’re not good with math, how much longer is that going to take than swiping a card and OK’ing the amount?

      Real obvious all right.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        I didn’t say “Hand the cashier $10.02.” People who do that bother me just as much as those who write checks for kitty litter or are willing to pay 17.9% interest on a diet iced tea Snapple. I’m standing on line with a melting pint of Ben and Jerry’s and Pythagoras over here is trying to show off his extemporaneous mathamagician skills while buying a Red Bull and a car freshener from the corner market. Just take the change, shove it in your pocket like the rest of us and get the fuck out of my way.

        • Murph1908 says:

          No.

          I don’t want 97 cents in change.

          Then again, if I can’t get the 3 cents out quickly (5 seconds?) I’ll take the change. I won’t dig forever looking for it. And I usually won’t add change to try to get full quarters in change.

        • partofme says:

          Normally I agree with you pantheon, but are you the same person who destroyed the waitress for being selfish and entitled? Or did you mean to say, “I agree with the waitress and stupid jerks who say they plan to pay in cash need to pay in cash… and then get the fuck away from my waitress so she can serve me.” ?

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            The two situations aren’t remotely related, except for the fact that the word “cash” appears in both of them.

            • partofme says:

              Except that they’re totally the same situation. There is one customer paying a business. This customer can either a) finish the transaction quickly, allowing the employee to then serve another customer or b) take up a bit more of the employee’s time, causing other customers the inhumanity of having to wait a bit. The only difference is that waitress situation, you’re putting yourself in the place of the first customer (GAWD! Why the hell can’t I pay the way I want to pay!?!) and this situation, you’re putting yourself in the place of the second customer (GAWD! Why the hell do I have to wait for this idiot who doesn’t know my optimized method of payment!?!)

              • pantheonoutcast says:

                Sitting in a lounge or bar and consuming multiple drinks over the course of an evening and then leisurely deciding to use one form of payment over another isn’t an inconvenience to anyone (except maybe for a misanthropic, easily flustered waitress who works for a bar with the world’s worst POS system). It’s her job to accept payment in exchange for goods and services, so she should expect some minor inconveniences. Hell, having to keep delivering glasses of scotch to my table is inconvenient, but hey, that’s her job.

                Making a minor purchase in a convenience store, however, should take no less than a few moments, and a reasonable person should do their best to make the transaction swift and fluid. Buying a cup of coffee with a debit card when there are 10 people behind you isn’t swift and fluid. Take $2 out of your pocket, hand to clerk, shove change back in your pocket, leave. In this example, it is not my job, nor is it the job of anyone else on line, to stand there and wait while you push buttons for five minutes on a touch screen and wait for authorization in order to buy two Slim Jims and a Vitamin Water. You’re inconveniencing me, and everyone else on line with your idiotic refusal to carry a $10 bill. The deli on the corner of my block refuses all credit card transactions – why? Because they are extremely busy during the morning and lunchtime rush and want to to get people in and out as quickly as possible.

                Don’t get me started on people who use coupons, btw. I think they should have their own line. The people with 12 items or less have their own line. People who are trying to save 11 cents off dryer sheets, (and in the process holding every one else up), should too.

                • leprechaunshawn says:

                  This might be the first time I’ve had to blatantly disagree with one of your comments. Whether I’m making a $2 purchase or a $2000 one, I’m swiping my card. I could care less if the person in line behind me is inconvenienced because it’s convenient to me.

                  I did have cash on me last night though but that was only because I was at a ummm… lets call it an “entertainment venue” and the “entertainers” don’t have anywhere to keep a credit card swiper.

                  • pantheonoutcast says:

                    That’s OK – There’s a first time for everything. At least you’re not arguing just for the sake of trying to argue with me. I pay cash for small purchases because I like to get in and out as fast as possible while simultaneously not being an inconsiderate prick to the people in the deli behind me who are waiting with their morning coffee. Here’s my $2, give me my bagel and medium Colombian. What’s the change? 15 cents? I’m certainly glad I don’t think I’m too good to shove two coins in my pocket. You with the EBT card, the coupons, or the third party check drawn on the bank of Yemen – get out of everyone’s way.

                • jamar0303 says:

                  Are you kidding? You think getting change from the register is quicker than swipe, (PIN), sign, go? I’ve never seen authorizations take more than a few seconds (what bizzaro-world are you in that authorizations take *minutes*?). Cash, on the other hand- especially when using large bills like 20s for a drink. Takes an eternity. Or you get someone without enough change on that off-chance… Nope, I’m having none of that.

                • partofme says:

                  It’s also the job of the cashier to take your cash (be it $10 or $10.02) and give you correct change. They should expect some minor inconveniences (and actually, when done correctly, accepting $10.02 is MUCH quicker than counting out $0.97 change and should be routine for a cashier). Additionally, you’re still forgetting that there are other customers in a bar… just like there are other customers in a deli or a convenience store (would your acceptable forms of payment list change if there aren’t other customers?). They might also want to pay and leave, but can’t because the waitress is busy fixing your transaction. We can agree that both places can improve their POS systems. The bar has obvious problems. But why can’t a deli or convenience store adopt the no signature required system? You can’t really deny that these are at least as fast, if not faster than cash.

      • anyanka323 says:

        Depends on how organized the person is. I worked as a cashier and one of my pet peeves was people digging for change in an unorganized bag or in their pockets It was nothing for people to take longer to dig for change than their transaction took. Another irritant was people insisted on paying with exact change for amounts higher than a quarter. I really don’t want you to take forever holding my lane up just because you want to lighten your wallet or pockets. Go to a Coinstar and lighten your load there, not at my register.

        If the customer was prepared, no problems there. I can do basic math in my head so they got the right amount back with as few coins as possible.

        Another thing I don’t really understand is the people who pay for totals more than $1.50 in mostly quarters. Quarters are like gold for many reasons, including laundry, parking meters, and vending machines. I remember duing college saving all quarters I got in change to use them for parking and laundry to avoid a trip to the bank to buy a roll or asking a cashier for a roll in cash back. I usually had enough to do laundry every week.

    • Silverhawk says:

      That assumes you can still go to a checkout run by a real person! The grocery stores and Lowe’s around here have made it so it’s nearly impossible to avoid the self-checkout. They typically keep one real checkout lane open, but the clerk usually wanders off, so it’s not consistently staffed. Try stuffing cash into one of those and beating the card swipe process.

      You can still get a real person at Target, and using an Amex card for less than $50 is guaranteed fastest (again, at least here) – swipe at the POS device, the screen says “Thanks, your transaction is complete”. Receipt prints out, cashier hands it to you, you walk out. No signing, no confirmations, that’s it.

      • partofme says:

        This is exactly what I came here to mention. If you’re making a small purchase, it’s generally quicker to go through a self-checkout with a shorter line or no line. And once that decision is made, it’s much quicker to run a credit card through than it is to stuff cash into a glorified vending machine.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Not around here; every cashier does the supremely annoying receipt-bill-coin stack which I loathe because it takes me a while to sort it out and put these items in my wallet. Since I’m female I don’t have enormous pockets, and the jockstrap behind me is usually pushing their cart into me the split second after the cashier hands me the Jenga stack of change & receipt so I have to stand off to the side and deal with it.

      • justagigilo85 says:

        “Not around here; every cashier does the supremely annoying receipt-bill-coin stack which I loathe because it takes me a while to sort it out and put these items in my wallet. Since I’m female I don’t have enormous pockets, and the jockstrap behind me is usually pushing their cart into me the split second after the cashier hands me the Jenga stack of change & receipt so I have to stand off to the side and deal with it.”

        As someone who did cashier for more years than I’d like to admit, your so called “Jenga stack of change & receipt” is the fastest for the cashier when you have to do it 200 times a day. So you may not have enormous pockets, you might have a purse that you can throw it all in. And then, *gasp* you take it home and organize it on your own time.

        • psiphiorg says:

          Why is it faster to hand somebody the paper (receipt/currency) before their coins, rather than their coins then their paper? I would think those two options would take the same amount of time.

          The complaint is putting the coins on top of the paper, where they can slide off, rather than putting them into your hand, where you can cup them and keep them from going anywhere.

          • momtimestwo says:

            I have to agree. I hate the coins being put on top of paper.

          • Dallas_shopper says:

            DING DING DING bingo. I can fold a receipt up with bills and deal with it later, but I hate it when they plop my change on top of it. It’s stupid.

    • SGT. E. G. ROCK says:

      * So.. you mean..:
      CASH : Try to fumble through your wallet for a correct bill.
      ( Nothing TOO large or they won’t accept it ! )
      Hand cashier a 20 and the extra penny, for the $ 14.96 bill..
      Then Wait, while the cashier tries to figure out why you gave her the penny.!
      Then wait again, when she gives you the wrong change,
      and you have to tell them what the correct amount should be.
      then after you receive your change, fumble to put it in a pocket,
      while you are trying to lift your bags from the bagging area.
      Then when you have a problem with an item, or find a mistake on the receipt,
      try to stop your cash payment from home, (impossible)
      verse calling the credit card company and stopping payment. (AmEx)

      So.. what was the point you were trying to make for using cash ?

      • brinks says:

        Cash is faster IF:
        1) You are prepared when you get to the register (wallet in hand, ready)
        2) You don’t pay with an unnecessarily large bill
        3) You don’t hand the cashier money and then change your mind “Oh wait…I DO have correct change)
        4) The cashier enters the right amount

        True, there are a lot of conditions that need to be met, but cash should be faster. I’ll grant you the fact that it often isn’t though.

      • Doubts42 says:

        if you have to fumble in your wallet for the correct bill, and fumble it into a pocket. then the fault lies with you, not the cash.

      • Griking says:

        Is cash hard for you to hold for some reason? Why would you fumble a $20 but not a credit card? It seems like you have a hard time putting cash back into your pocket as well. I’d ask if you wear jeans that are too tight but you’re apparent;y able to get your wallet and credit card in and out easily enough so that can’t be it.

        As for the change thing I really haven’t had that problem since they invented cash registers that automatically display how much change I get. Perhaps your local grocer hasn’t upgraded their equipment in the last 50 years. I’d bring that up next time I was there. You may also want to check the expiration date on the food they sell as well, you never know.

        The fact is that I’ve had more problems with credit card swipers that won’t read cards for some reason than I’ve had with cashiers that couldn’t count or with that crazy cash that trys to dance out of your hands that you seem to have.

        • jamar0303 says:

          Can’t speak for him/her but If I’m just stepping out the door to a nearby shop I don’t bring my whole wallet, just one or two cards at most. So it’s easy to pull it out of my pocket, swipe, and go. Cash, on the other hand, is a mess. I keep it to a minimum by only withdrawing from ATMs for certain cash-only merchants and depositing it at a bank branch at the soonest opportunity.

    • brinks says:

      I agree. It does depend on the store’s system, but you have to wait for authorization and hit the “yes”, “enter”, and/or “OK” buttons far too many times. Cash is faster unless there’s a cashier error (they entered the wrong amount) or the customer decides they have exact change after the amount is tendered. The only other exception might be when you have a ton of change due back to you, like when you hand the cashier a 50 dollar bill to pay for a 99 cent item.

      Oh, and please don’t ever use a check, people. If there was no line in front of you, there will be a line after you.

    • Griking says:

      Actually my experiences in my local Stop and Shop seem to be like this

      Watch as person in front of me swipes his credit card.

      Watch as person in front of me swiped credit card again

      And again

      And again

      Watched as the cashier has the customer in front of me wraps his credit card in a plastic grocery bag and try to swipe his card that way.

      Repeat.

      Watches as customer in front of me has to have the cashier manually enter his credit card to process the transaction.

      I walk up to register, scan my items, pay in cash with the $20 I already had in my hand and I’m on my way.

      • jamar0303 says:

        In my experience, it’s been-
        Swipe.
        Key in PIN (if I’m using my Chinese card; if I’m using my US card I just hit “enter”)
        Receipt prints.
        Sign.
        Go.
        (for the curious, in Japan you plug your Chip+PIN card into the back of the PIN pad if you have one)
        Whereas with cash it’s
        Hand over bill.
        Cashier scrutinizes.
        Uses a fake detector thingy.
        Checks watermark.
        Feels the bill up.
        Accepts it reluctantly (or “do you have a…newer bill?” Yes, this happened to me. I now leave if this happens the very few times I specially go to the ATM to satisfy a cash-only merchant)
        Gives change.
        I repeat. (and demand a new bill if the bill(s) handed back is too ratty-I’ve been burned every other time I told myself to stop worrying until I switched to cards and only cash if the merchant requires it and an ATM or bank branch is nearby)
        Go.
        You seem to be lucky. As for me, I’ll stand by my use of cards.

        • Garbanzo says:

          Is this preference for new currency also in Japan? I have never in the United States had a bill rejected because it was “too old”.

          • jamar0303 says:

            Actually, I’m not there, though I’ve had that bit happen at least once there, a few times in America, and a LOT in China. Then again, in China interchange fees are so low merchants aren’t losing money on all but the tiniest transactions; why risk 100% or more loss (lost purchase + real money given as change)?

      • Christopher Wilson says:

        Stop and shop has payvantage so my scenario is walk up to register, scan stop and shop card, on the screen when it asks if I want to pay with payvantage click yes, enter pin as cashier scans items and bags, take receipt, leave. No swiping after the total, no waiting for change.

    • shepd says:

      You have to press buttons to use a credit card?

      Another thing Canadians don’t have to do… …except for those that are stuck with a chip card, of course. :^D

    • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

      Depends on what did you buy that pulled out the $10. Was it $9.99 or $7.03? If the former, you’re right. If the latter, I’m not so sure if it would be faster for the cashier to get the $2.97 change out of the till. And no, I’m not going to get into the “let’s get rid of pennies” debate either.

    • esc27 says:

      Credit for me is more like:
      1. Dig card out of wallet and swipe.
      2. Realize machine wasn’t ready. (this is happening more and more)
      3. Dig card back out of wallet and swipe.
      4. Press credit. Wait for authorization.
      5. Pull card back out of wallet a third time and read cashier last 4 digits of number.
      6. Scribble on screen.
      7. Wait for receipt to print.

  12. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I don’t know. i don’t have a preference for myself or people in front of me.

    It depends on the person paying (how fast they are and if they want to spend 6 hours trying to find “exact change”, the POS equipment, etc.

    Some smaller businesses just swipe your debit card as credit – which means I have to wait up to 3 or 4 days to see it appear on my account – that’s irritating to me.

  13. OSAM says:

    What about stores that have the MC and Visa Swipe passes? I know that in Canada, the Tim Horton’s chains usually have the MC swipe pads that you just wave your MC card over and *presto*, done.

    Similarly, I was using my visa in NYC a few weeks ago and did the same. Hell, Yellow Taxis have them in the car, though you do have to sign. Still saves time.

    • mbz32190 says:

      A lot of stores have these things, including the grocery store I work at.And during my time as a cashier (on and off in the store for 4 years), I have only seen the “pay pass” thing used MAYBE five times. It’s either a lot of card issuers don’t use it, or customers don’t trust it (or both). If the purchase was over…$50 I think, which is common when one does grocery shopping, they still had to sign on the pad anyway, so it’s only a matter of waving the card vs. swiping.

      • Orv says:

        I’ve found the pay pass things don’t usually work. I think they weren’t very popular so no one bothers to maintain them.

        • Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

          Yeah, this. I was all excited when my replacement card had the chip in it, only to be let down that it never seems to work anywhere.

      • trentblase says:

        I use mine whenever possible. They are ALWAYS surprised. Bonus that it works from within my wallet.

        • guroth says:

          Bonus that the rfid chip containing all of your credit card info is readable from 20 feet away through your wallet

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          What if you have more than one credit card in your wallet?

          • trentblase says:

            Then I guess it’s some kind of credit card roulette… only one will go through (if at all) and you won’t know which one until you get the receipt. However, I only have one such card and lucky for me it is my primary card.

      • jamar0303 says:

        And occasionally you get the mythical unicorn… The Japanese tourist waving his/her phone over the pad. Unfortunately, the same technology hasn’t trickled into American phones yet, otherwise I’d put them at a clear advantage.

  14. Digital_Headache says:

    I’m a fan of using Credit for most transactions since I get reward points and do not like to carry cash. I have generally felt that this purchase means is no different than other transactions in terms of time it takes to complete.
    At fast food joints and gas stations, it is actually faster. However, if you’re in a hurry at a restaurant, cash is king.

  15. Etoiles says:

    At a Starbucks or McDonald’s, credit/debit is way faster. At the coffee shop in my office, it’s the same either way. At the local grocery store, I’m not even sure most of them know what to do with cash anymore, so many people pay with plastic…

  16. SGT. E. G. ROCK says:

    * I dislike “credit cards”, but every since I got a debt/credit card from my bank..
    I got used to NOT carrying cash, and using it for ALL purchases.
    If they require a minimum on my purchase. I will tell the merchant to keep it all,
    And they can put it all back on the shelves themselves. ! *

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      “If they require a minimum on my purchase. I will tell the merchant to keep it all…”

      And then you leave, and either go home without your neccessary item, or wander around looking for a store that satisfies your particular economic idiosyncrasy.

      Yeah, that’s so much easier than carrying a $20 bill in your wallet.

  17. Nick says:

    Banks need to negotiate smaller fees on small (under $5) credit card transactions. I never use cash, and have no problem giving a credit card for a $2 purchase, but I do feel bad knowing how much of that is going toward fees.

  18. GMurnane says:

    I think Credit is generally faster (excluding places that use ancient processing equipment OR require signatures), but If you have exact change already out Cash has the potential to be just as fast.

  19. Southern says:

    Actually, I’m kinda looking forward to the new Credit Card limits — because this is going to cause me to save a lot of money. I used to hardly think twice about going to lunch, buying a sandwich at the local sandwich shop, and just running the old CC thru for $4-$5 a day..

    Which adds up, over the course of a month.

    Now, since I’m probably going to start carrying cash, I’ll be more “conscious” about the amount of “nickels and dimes” that I (used) to spend on the debit card.. In fact, I just read an article (yesterday?) that theorized that people that use cash instead of plastic save more money, because it makes them think “do I really need this”, rather than just using a CC and using a “cash-I-never-see-so-I-don’t-know-it’s-gone” mentality.

    I dunno, I think this might be good for me, and for perhaps many other people in America. Time will tell I suppose.

    At least my change jar is going to fill up a lot faster.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      No intelligent restaurant is going to set minimums for CC purchases, because that would mean no “I’d just like a Coke”s, which makes them an assload of profit regardless of how it was paid for.

  20. trey says:

    exact change beats it everytime

  21. elangomatt says:

    I think Cash is about as fast as credit assuming that the customer doesn’t decide to dig through their purse/pockets to find change.

  22. pengajim says:

    Cash or credit doesn’t matter. The slowness is almost always caused by the person behind the counter.

  23. SGT. E. G. ROCK says:

    * So.. you mean..:
    CASH : Try to fumble through your wallet for a correct bill.
    ( Nothing TOO large or they won’t accept it ! )
    Hand cashier a 20 and the extra penny, for the $ 14.96 bill..
    Then Wait, while the cashier tries to figure out why you gave her the penny.!
    Then wait again, when she gives you the wrong change,
    and you have to tell them what the correct amount should be.
    then after you receive your change, fumble to put it in a pocket,
    while you are trying to lift your bags from the bagging area.
    Then when you have a problem with an item, or find a mistake on the receipt,
    try to stop your cash payment from home, (impossible)
    verse calling the credit card company and stopping payment. (AmEx)

    So.. what was the point you were trying to make for using cash ?

    • Guppy06 says:

      “Hand cashier a 20 and the extra penny, for the $ 14.96 bill..”

      Assumes you’re not using self-checkout.

      “Then Wait, while the cashier tries to figure out why you gave her the penny.!”

      Assumes the cashier is new. Most cashiers don’t care, they punch in the value that was paid reflexively. The last time I misheard the total and overpaid by 90¢ instead of $1, the cashier didn’t even notice that I was getting most of coins back.

      “then after you receive your change, fumble to put it in a pocket,”

      Assumes dollar bills rather than dollar coins, which are as easy if not easier to “put away” than plastic.

      “Then when you have a problem with an item, or find a mistake on the receipt,
      try to stop your cash payment from home, (impossible)
      verse calling the credit card company and stopping payment. (AmEx)”

      Only works with an actual credit card, not a debit card, even if it is processed as a credit card. In another of your posts, you mentioned that you used debit rather than credit. Once you swipe that card, the money is just as gone as if it was cash, in exactly the same way that it’s gone if you use the card to withdraw from your checking account at an ATM.

  24. full.tang.halo says:

    Nothing will cause an other wise good day to go straight to frustrating in .5 seconds than some old betty holding up an express line fishing around a purse that could double as a 5 day overnight bag for $0.97 in change. Not like the $20 in her hand won’t cover the $4.97 she owes. That and counting it out, one coin at a time on the counter and making the cashier have to scope up her mess of change.

    /rant

  25. Supes says:

    At most places, with modern credit card equipment, credit is faster. At restaurants it’s slower since they need to take your card then bring it back to you.

    Of course, the real shame is that they didn’t just institute a mandatory maximum fee (or something like that) for credit purchases under $10… instead of allowing places to refuse them, they should’ve just said for smaller purchases fees can’t exceed 25¢ or something…

  26. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    But with credit cards, you have to pore through hundreds of charges on each monthly statement, and hope that every one of them is correct. I use my creds for only a couple purchases each month, and it’s a breeze to verify them on my monthly statement.

    • Silverhawk says:

      Maybe it’s just me, but I’m able to scan my statement pretty quickly, as I usually remember the places I’ve been. I watch for payees that look unfamiliar, or amounts that look too large. I usually see one or two I give further scrutiny, so I go through the filing cabinet in my Costanza wallet, find the receipt(s) and invariably they’re always correct.

      • Batmanuel says:

        Same for me. I usually just log into the website every week or so and make sure everything seems right, and it rarely takes me more than a few seconds to see if everything is kosher. Haven’t even bothered to balance my checkbook in years, either, because I only have a handful monthly transactions to deal with (just about everything goes on credit cards for cash/points back) and can usually just log in a see if everything is correct with a quick glance.

    • partofme says:

      Is it that hard to simply put your new card purchases in a spreadsheet every few days? Sum up the month. If it comes out to the same amount as the statement, NO PROBLEM! If it doesn’t, then you start matching. I do this and 100% of the time so far, I have had absolutely no issue and have spent exactly zero time searching through to verify each and every one. Bonus points for having the records so that if I want to go through and analyze my spending, it’s all right there.

  27. Tim says:

    It depends on a number of things, such as whether or not:

    - you have to sign
    – the store has a separate credit card machine (not built into the register)
    – your card is declined
    – the cashier has to do something complicated to get your change (unwrap coins, etc.)

  28. brinks says:

    I posted a couple of replies favoring cash, but I guess it depends on the credit card system.

    Where I’ve worked in the past, if you wanted to pay by credit (which I usually do to avoid bank fees) you had to slide your card, select debit or credit, say OK to the amount, wait for verification, say OK again, then sign, then get your receipt.

    At Starbucks, they just slide my card and hand me a receipt, that’s it. It definitely depends where you are.

  29. areaman says:

    Too difficult to compare if the premise is “Cash Or Credit?”.

    Maybe if the one compared:

    -credit vs cash (no change ie something costs exactly $1.50 and it’s paid with exactly $1.50)
    -credit vs cash (change given)
    -credit with signature vs cash (no change ie something costs exactly $1.50 and it’s paid with exactly $1.50)
    -credit without signature vs cash (no change ie something costs exactly $1.50 and it’s paid with exactly $1.50)
    -credit with signature vs cash (not exact change)
    -credit without signature vs cash (not exact change)
    etc…

    Generally speaking I’m going to say credit because of all the variables involved. Also I noticed sometimes cashiers take a LONG time to make change. Are they having a bad day? Have they been conditioned to not make change? What kind of training are they getting? It seems like credit cards take away those variables.

  30. ellemdee says:

    Credit card at the self checkout. I hate shopping at grocery stores that don’t have self checkouts anymore. The bonus is that the lines are usually short or nonexistant even at busy times because people are so intimidated by having to work the scanner themselves. I tried to show my mother how to use the self checkout once and it was quite the ordeal.

    My parents are the only people I know who write checks at stores anymore.

  31. ellemdee says:

    Credit card at the self checkout. I hate shopping at grocery stores that don’t have self checkouts anymore. The bonus is that the lines are usually short or nonexistant even at busy times because people are so intimidated by having to work the scanner themselves. I tried to show my mother how to use the self checkout once and it was quite the ordeal.

    My parents are the only people I know who write checks at stores anymore.

  32. humphrmi says:

    I voted the “Smell the roses” choice. I don’t actually write checks, but I think that we have become way too obsessed with time. Sometimes you have to stop yourself and ask, “Why the hell am I obsessing over this five minutes? Is it worth the high blood pressure?” In my younger days it was all about saving time, but as I grow older, I’m finding it’s not worth the effort.

  33. CalicoGal says:

    I use my MasterCard for EVERYTHING, including a coffee at the Dunkin’ Donuts, lunch at Subway, bar tabs (Why wont bars use cards for cover charges? So annoying… they could open your tab at the door and then the bartender could access it for your drinks…but I digress), all restaurant meals, EVERYTHING!
    It’s WAY FASTER, no digging involved since it is in a slip pocket in my purse, and I pay my card off in full every month so it costs me nothing,

    PLUS for a germophobe like me, the biggest bonus is that I dont have to handle filthy money.
    Yes, I know people touch my card sometimes, but I can wipe it off with Purell on a napkin…

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      You wipe your credit card with hand sanitizer after a cashier swipes it?

      You don’t see anything mildly neurotic about that?

  34. lain1k says:

    It depends on the place and people involved. Some places make you sign your credit card no matter the amount. Others just swipe and you’re done. Also some people are great at counting money while others will fumble and count and recount.

  35. teke367 says:

    I think if the place doesn’t require a signature, then Credit can be as fast as cash. But I’d have to say cash is the quickest. Cash only takes long if you have somebody who has bills balled up in their pocket, or swears they have exact change, etc. Credit can take long even if you are prepared.

  36. sopmodm14 says:

    the only time cash is quicker is at dollar stores

    u can do fraud alerts for cards, but not cash

    cash makes wallets bulkier

    cards also give you rewards (miniscule, but nonetheless)

    in human/human interaction there is human error, u count too much/little, cashier/attendant enters info, waits for register to open, they count too much/little and then your done

    usually at stores, i swipe while items are bagged, and we’re finshed at the same time

    • areaman says:

      Even though it’s not about speed, glad you brought up security and rewards.

      Security features on a credit card beat cash.

      And I get 2% cash back every month with my Schwab Visa. Miniscule???

  37. Batmanuel says:

    Depends a lot on the store. Target has some of the fastest POS systems I’ve seen for credit cards. They allow me to swipe my card and sign while the cashier is scanning and bagging everything, plus the way the card is automatically pulled into the terminal eliminates the mis-swipes that are common with most other POS machines. The whole transaction is basically done before they are finished bagging, so it usually just takes a few quick taps of the screen for us to finish the transaction. It’s a very smooth process, and way faster than cash.

  38. Batmanuel says:

    Depends a lot on the store. Target has some of the fastest POS systems I’ve seen for credit cards. They allow me to swipe my card and sign while the cashier is scanning and bagging everything, plus the way the card is automatically pulled into the terminal eliminates the mis-swipes that are common with most other POS machines. The whole transaction is basically done before they are finished bagging, so it usually just takes a few quick taps of the screen for us to finish the transaction. It’s a very smooth process, and way faster than cash.

    • catnapped says:

      The “Card eater” (as I call it) is on the way out there…most Targets with the newer registers went back to the conventional swipe reader with screen. Those things were likely malfunctioning too much (I’ve had it happen once…cashier had to open the bottom to fish the card out)

  39. EvilByte says:

    Neither is faster but it also depends on where as well. All the debit/CC people are assuming you swipe your own card. I’ve yet to see a coffee place in Chicago that has that–so the whole “Swipe–green button–green button” thing doesn’t work. So cards in coffee shops where most purchases are under $10 take about twice as long as cash.

    Come to think of it–the majority of places that I can think of where there are a lot of purchases under $10 don’t even have self-swipe machines. The person at the counter has to do it.

  40. Johnny Longtorso says:

    It doesn’t matter, I always end up behind the old person who insists on writing a check, or the person who can’t figure out how to use the self-checkout, or the person who has to dig through their pockets/purse to find their credit card, or the person who insists on gabbing on his or her cell phone, ignoring the cashier completely…

    Yes, I am a misanthrope.

  41. dru_zod says:

    Is everybody really so busy that they can’t take an extra 45 seconds to count out money and wait for change? If so, you need to slow down.

  42. 44Wadeable says:

    I generally prefer cash on my day to day stuff, but the whole FastPass thing that some places have is pretty nifty, now.

  43. lihtox says:

    When considering cash, don’t forget the time it takes to GET that cash, particularly if you don’t want to carry a lot around at one time. I don’t like to pay ATM fees, so that means I get cash only from my bank or from the grocery store, and I don’t visit either very often. (My wife does most of the shopping.) Depends on your lifestyle, of course. My mom would never use anything but cash to buy groceries, and a trip to the bank is one of her regular chores. (She doesn’t trust direct deposit either.) That would drive me nuts, although as a result she is probably more on top of her finances than I am.

    I’ve tended to avoid debit cards in credit-card situations because I was led to understand that I didn’t have the same level of protection from fraud: I don’t want to give random merchants access to my entire bank account. Is this a complete misconception on my part? And I know that processing a debit card is cheaper for businesses, but is that true even if the debit card is used without the PIN?

    • brinks says:

      If a debit card is swiped as credit, it counts as credit (additional fees for the merchant and all).

      My bank is pretty sneaky. I get charged an “excess use” fee if I have too many debit transactions, so I run almost everything as credit. The bank loves it because they pocket more, but my bank also assures me that I get some degree of purchase protection if I’ve purchased something on credit.

  44. erratapage says:

    Speed is not the defining feature of convenience in this particular instance. I may spend marginally more time at the cash register, but I spend less time balancing my checkbook and managing debt when I use cash.

    Cash FTW.

  45. ben says:

    How much of a hurry is everyone in that you worry about whether a transaction takes a minute or two minutes? I use credit cards as often as I can because they’re convenient, because I can keep track of my purchases, because I can keep my money longer, etc etc. I don’t really care if the transaction takes 30 seconds more or 30 seconds less.

  46. Andyf says:

    this depends on the merchant’s credit/debit processing system. If it’s a small shop, they probably use a smaller dial-up card processing system, that’d take longer than cash, a big (chain) store will probably go through much quicker, and might be faster than cash, particularly if you get one the the cashiers that takes 5 minutes to count your change.

  47. cerbie_the_orphan says:

    Bad poll. None of the above. It takes about as long to use most of the bass-ackward UIs for debit as for credit, and about that long to count out coins.

    I try to keep some cash on me, and use cash at local places. Chains get the card.

  48. UnicornMaster says:

    I think it takes the human factor out of the transaction, which is a good thing. I don’t need little miss long nails trying to count my change out and doing math in her head. And then for all the people ahead of me in line as well.

  49. heldc says:

    I prefer plastic (debit tho, not credit) for all purchases, because it gives me a record of what I spent.

  50. Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

    While an interesting discussion topic, this survey is completely broken by a variable which is uncontrolled: the speed and process of the credit card device and the clerk operating it.