Hey Fatty, Stop Charging Big Macs To Your Credit Card

Cash-paying customers spend less on fast food than people who pay with a credit card. Though 80% of fast food purchases are still made with cash, credit and debit card use is on the rise. From Bankrate:

    “But while customers like the convenience of being able to pay for fast food with plastic, their waistlines might not be so forgiving. A number of studies show that consumers are less likely to drive by fast food restaurants if they know the restaurants accept credit cards. In 2002 Visa USA conducted a poll and found that 32 percent of customers admitted that they had limited their drive-through orders because they did not have enough cash to pay for what they wanted. The ability to use credit cards eliminates that obstacle.

    Not only that, but people spend more money when they pay via credit card than they would if they were paying with cash. A Visa study of 100,000 restaurant transactions found that customers spent, on average, 30 percent more than those who paid with cash. That 30 percent can be the difference between a small order of fries and soft drink and a supersize order, or it can be the addition of a high-calorie dessert.”

We imagine the results would hold true for most low-dollar transactions. A study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that paying with a credit card adds 73 extra calories to each meal, or .07 pounds.

Credit cards can make you fat [Bankrate]
(Photo: Irish Typepad)


Edit Your Comment

  1. DjDynasty says:

    Or do what my partner does. He opens a new credit card every month or so, goes on a fast food binge and then reports the card stolen.

  2. G-Dog says:

    I order $2.30 worth of Wendy’s dollar menu twice a week. Chicken Sam’ich and a salad. I use my debit card, and spend less a week on lunch than I ever had.

  3. t.a.m.s.y. says:

    “A Visa study of 100,000 restaurant transactions found that customers spent, on average, 30 percent more than those who paid with cash.”

    Couldn’t it just be that people are much less likely to pay cash on pricier meals (or much less likely to use a credit card when ordering an inexpensive snack)?

  4. Jacquilynne says:

    @t.a.m.s.y.: That was my feeling, as well. I’m not much more likely to spend more money when paying credit than when paying cash–rather, I make the decision on whether to pay cash or credit by how much money I decide to spend. Less than $10 and I pay cash, more than $10 and I pay credit if I can. It feels like they have the cause and consequence entirely backwards in that conclusion.

  5. banned says:

    If people pay more simply from using a credit card, then they deserve to get fat as they obviously have no control over their purchases.

  6. Mills says:

    If I’m going ot eat fast food I always use a credit card-because they make less money off of my purchase after the fees. Then of course, I have a slight guilt complex about not supporting local businesses so I might be fooling myself about how horrible AmEx merchant fees are.

  7. wildhobo says:

    I think your math (or the studies math) is wrong. There are about 3500 calories in a pound, so 73 calories is more like .02 pounds. I’d hate for people to see that and think they shouldn’t eat a banana!

  8. fredmertz says:

    Wildhobo — you’re comparing apples to prime rib with your comment. A pound of fat has 3500 calories, but that in no way implies that eating 3500 calories will make you gain a pound. These is no scale to compare how many calories you eat to how much weight you’ll gain.

  9. Sonnymooks says:

    Anyone know the name of the company that has those keychain credit cards?

    It was the one with the simple swipe and stuff.

    I didn’t even think McDonalds took credit cards, I thought they only used their own prepaid gift cards.

    But looking at that picture that looks like they take the Visa contactless card.

  10. wildhobo says:

    @fredmertz: um I have no idea what you are talking about. If you burn 3500 more calories than you eat in a given time frame then you will lose a pound. It doesn’t matter whether you eat prime rib or apples. So I guess you could say that there is a scale.

  11. Thrust says:

    OH JESUS CHRIST ON A POGO STICK! It’s another one of those f**king tap’n’go machines.

    @DjDynasty: When your partner gets busted, it’s gonna be quite a show. I’d stock up on some popcorn for the event, use one of his cards.

    @Mills: Don’t deal with Amex. They’re ethically worse than Bank of America, and twice as inept.

    I never use creditcards for fast food. It’s just retarded. We used to make fun of the people who did back when I worked at a pizza place. If you don’t have money in your debit account (aka broke), and no cash, maybe that $15 worth of gutrot could be $15 of real groceries.

  12. alpha says:


    Consumerist is just bad at quoting, reading, and/or paraphrasing (again). First, there were multiple studies..One about spending with credit card, where they found that the amount was about the difference between a small order and super-sizing.

    The second study talked about involves what all goes into an up-sized meal:
    “In a study published in June 2006 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said they found the average up-sized fast-food meal added 73 more calories to the meal, cost an extra 67 cents and resulted in an average 36-gram (0.07 pounds) weight gain.”

    Now, I’m too lazy to dig up the study, but it appears that they may have tracked weight over time of certain participants. This would seem to indicate that while they only ATE 73 more calories (.02 lb), they were then more lethargic and an additional .05 lb of weight gain occurred due to being less active.

    That’s what it looks like anyway.

  13. hoo_foot says:

    @Thrust: Apparentally you and your coworkers have never heard of a credit card reward program. Plenty of consumers use credit cards for everything and then pay off the balance each month in hopes of racking up extra cash or frequent flyer miles.

    Not to mention that if the pizza is going towards an office function, then it’s going on the company card.

  14. krunk4ever says:

    @hoo_foot: Was just going to add with credit cards giving back 5% for restaurant and fast food, it’d be stupid to not use your credit card at those places.

    of course, you still have to have self control on what you order and don’t order more than what you normally do.

  15. Thrust says:

    @hoo_foot: Ok, company pizza purchase for a large volume, sure. It’s a business expense, and it’s probably over $50, so that would be something some people use creditcards for. But not for $5 worth of McDonalds. Now you haven’t probably seen my posts on rewards programs, but they typically aren’t worth it.

  16. Jacquilynne says:

    I earn approximately 2 free (by which I mean tax only) flights a year using the rewards program on my credit card. The card costs me $90 a year and saves me about $800 a year. I’d say that counts as worth it.

    I don’t charge McDonalds because my McDonalds orders never meet my mental threshold of $10 before signing things is worth the hassle, but I’m about half a step away from it. I’m neither broke nor in need of real groceries (though, if I am, I put those on my credit card, too) I just like the airmiles.

  17. CoffeeAddict says:

    I love my debit but food if you can call it that mcdonald’s and other fast food places of that nature make me sick. I do find though that if using cash you are more likely to think for a minute prior to blowing it on something with no value like fast food.

  18. Jeff asks: "WTF could you possibly have been thinking? says:

    I have direct deposit into my free checking account with a free Visa Check card. I literally have to go to my bank’s atm to get cash (I can use others but then I pay fees). I use my free Visa Check card for EVERYTHING. Gas, groceries, utility bills (online), pizza, McPuke, movies, etc., etc. There’s no fee, it works just like a credit card most places, and works as a debit card too, what’s not to love?
    With online banking through my mobile device or at home, I can see a transaction almost immediately and I don’t even have to keep a check register anymore.
    So don’t make presumptions about why I use a card at McPuke.
    PS: And don’t ask me for a dollar, I don’t carry cash!

  19. The only food in walking distance of my school is a) a donut shop that takes only cash, b) a Chinese restaurant that takes only cash, and c) a Burger King. Its really awful because I hate carrying cash, but none of these options are good.

  20. wakela says:

    What’s the point of this? That too much fast food makes you fat? That using a credit card is convenient? That people buy less when they aren’t carrying very much money?

  21. Thrust says:

    The point I’m still trying to figure out is why people always want to use their damned creditcards for small purchases? It’s retarded, and I don’t mean Sloth from the Goonies retarded (Chocolate? Baby Ruth), I mean Carlos Mencia needed to invent a new term (Dee Dee Dee) for these people retarded.

  22. XianZhuXuande says:

    @DjDynasty: Yeah, your partner will probably wind up chatting with the police one day shortly after chatting with his latest credit card company. I’m amazed to think he might have gotten away with this as long as it would seem you’ve implied. Fun note: Visa and Mastercard use an agency to track fraudulent reporting — they keep records of this stuff and it will come back to haunt your partner. Discover and AmEx keep internal records. Where else to go? Prison?

  23. FLConsumer says:

    @t.a.m.s.y.: I think you hit it right. I’m not about to carry $200+ to pay for a meal at Ruth’s Chris.

    Another thing which needs to be mentioned is that just about everyone who can get a credit card has one at this point. Those who lack them probably are hurting in the cash department or are just eccentric (people who comment on this forum who have a credit score that’d get them a credit card but refuse to, are eccentric.)

  24. @t.a.m.s.y.: That’s what I would think. If using the cards led people to spend more the fast food places should be making more money in general (though even that may be unrelated).

    In years past, fast food restaurants accepted only cash, largely because credit-card transactions used to take too long to process, impinging on the fast food concept. As a result, consumers who didn’t have enough cash on them would…

    Go to an ATM!

  25. nidolke says:

    I don’t have of my bank’s ATMs near me, so I don’t always have cash. I debit fast food all the time. I’d love to pay cash, but I hate the $2 fees non-member ATMs charge. I’m no fatty either, so I guess I’m doing something right.

  26. Mary says:

    Wow, there’s so much that’s offensive about this that I don’t know where to start.

    As for everybody going on about using credit cards for fast food, the article begins by saying “credit AND debit” and then only says credit.

    Implying that debit cards are part of the study, and I know I don’t carry cash whatsoever anymore. I use my debit card exclusivly on everything unless I know they don’t take it and I get the amount I need beforehand. It’s much easier for me to keep track of my purchases when they’re automatically put online and sorted for me.

  27. Thrust says:

    @meiran: Don’t forget debit’s biggest plus, no change. Cash is horrible to use. You start with a wallet full of $20’s, each time you pull one out it becomes a fistful of coins. You could have thirty bucks in change but once it’s coin its like it doesn’t register in the mind as having thirty bucks. You just see the lack of twenty dollar bills.

  28. Melov says:

    I live in Cincinnati and there isn’t a single business in the Tri-State area that doesn’t accept plastic. They simply wouldn’t wouldn’t get enough business if they didn’t.

    I also find this study wrong. If I have cash I’ll want to use it all up, whereas if I have my debit card, I only buy things I need.

  29. 7livesleft says:

    Why, in St Pete’s name, would anyone use a credit card to pay for fast food? Sure, it’s easy, it doesn’t hit your cash in pocket, and you can buy whatever size meals you want. But unless they remember to pay off the balance at the end of the month they end up paying 10 gazillion percent interest on their cheeze burgers.

    If you dont have the casy for Micky D’s, don’t go there!

  30. Raanne says:

    7livesleft… yeah – i use my credit card to pay for fast food. because its a lot easier than using cash. its a lot faster than using cash. its a lot more convenient then taking the trek to the atm all the time. it saves me money because i get cash back. (not much, but i get a $50 check in the mail periodically). and no, there is no annual fee, no interest, because it is always paid off. so whats the problem? If i went by your logic, anyone who used cash and gave up all those benefits that i mentioned is the one who isn’t acting very smart.

  31. anatak says:


    No more eccentric than the people who comment on this forum who think that just about everyone wants a credit card.

    No more eccentric than the people who think its so damned difficult to carry cash.

    So go ahead and super-size that Big Mac.

  32. 7livesleft says:

    @Raanne: Then you are one of the few who use credit cards responsibily. “Always paid off” isn’t somethig too many people think about. They carry a balance because they use the cards to make purchases they don’t have cash for. I, myself, keep cash on hand for when I don’t have time to run home and cook something for lunch or dinner. Why go to the ATM every time you need cash? Is it that hard to manage cold, hard, cash in your wallet? Why think of benefits of credit cards at McD’s if you can pay with cash.