Another Good Reason To Hate The "Life Takes Visa" Campaign

Credit Slips points out another reason we loathe the Life Takes Visa campaign. You know, the one where everyone moves in blissful synchronicity, swiping their debit cards for small items, then the party stops and everyone glowers at the tardbucket who pays for stuff with cash.

Out the side of one face, Credit Slips writes, the credit card industry tells Washington that consumers, “make bad decisions that leave them financially overextended. Nothing should be done for these consumers because they are nothing more than the victims of circumstances of their own making.”

Then out the other face the credit card companies turn around with campaigns like Life Only Takes Visa that seek to perpetuate and extend, “the free-wheeling, mindless use of credit cards that the industry so often decries.”

Disconnect much?

Life Only Takes Visa, You Losers [Credit Slips]
PREVIOUSLY: Visa Tap-N-Go Ads Piss Us Off
RELATED: Hasbro And Visa Pervert LIFE Board Game To Train Children In Racking Up Credit Card Debt


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  1. ViperBorg says:

    [5th grade response] Tardbucket! Ha! [/5th grade response]
    Is this what we’ve been reduced to? Complaining about the quality of commercials and what “message” it’s sending? Grow up. If you don’t like it, do what I do, change the channel, or mute the damn TV. Lazy.

  2. mewyn dyner says:

    These commercials are annoying and deceptive. Almost all the time when dealing with credit for small purchases it takes at least 50% longer to make the transaction than with cash. All but the greenest of cashiers can make change for any amount in almost no time.

    I’m actually finding myself switching to cash more and more these days, mostly because I’ve been doing more poorly at mentally managing my balances. Life as a full-time professional and a full-time student isn’t the easiest thing in the world. ;)

  3. jamar0303 says:

    I once saw a Visa commercial like that in Japan- the guy who was in and out of the store in 1 minute versus the guy who had to fumble with his wallet and getting change.

  4. @ViperBorg: Or maybe we could look at this intelligently and discuss it. Maybe then we’ll come to the conclusion that we should contact our local representatives and plead with them to revert back to the way bankruptcy used to be, rather than make it more difficult for people to get help.

    Or, we could do like you and change the channel.. thanks for nothing guy.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You mention that the add encourages users to swipe their credit cards, but actually Visa would prefer you not use a debit card. They only get their variable interchange rate when you use credit.

    The real reason that I hate those adds is the Visa agreements that set the rules that force Merchants to abide or lose their ability to process credit cards. The rules state that merchants are expressly forbidden from promoting one method of payment over another. For example, you can’t offer a discount to customers paying with cash over credit. The agreement states that all payment methods must be presented in equal fashion — but then they introduce the Life Take Visa ads to stomp all over cash. Hypocrite much?

  6. iDevin says:

    You’re not seriously defending the conspicuous consumers who have racked up thousands in debt because they thought it was free money are you? This is Consumerist – a site that’s supposed to be about being smart with your shopping and finances, not for blaming debt woes on 30 second Visa spots.

    Maybe you just haven’t met one of these spend-spend-spenders. They honestly think that it’s “free money” that they get from the credit card companies, and then they actually have the nerve to complain about the companies when they get shut off for not paying their bill. It’s not Visa’s fault that many of their clients happen to be uneducated about the matters of credit. Visa didn’t even issue the card! Maybe we should actually have mandatory personal finance courses in school. Or perhaps some sort of “credit IQ test” on all credit card applications.

    The thing to remember in all of this is that the people who are in debt up to their eyeballs are the ones responsible for it. They made the purchases. They knew how much they were spending. They were just too short sighted to see how much it would cost them in the long run.

  7. noktulo says:

    This argument is complete bunk. These commercial don’t encourage people to wantonly spend money they don’t have, as you imply. In every commercial the person is simply using a different form of payment for a purchase they were already going to make with cash or check.

  8. LTS! says:

    The point of every commercial is to get you to buy something or spend money or take an action regardless of whether it is right for you or not. The onus is upon the individual to think for themselves and make decisions that are beneficial to their own life.

    If a person cannot do that, it’s not my fault. Marketing is the embodiment of hypocrisy. You can’t willfully tell people all the potential issues or you’d need a 5 minute spot which would drive cost of the product up. On top of that, no one watches a 30 second spot, who’s going to watch a 5 minute spot.

    Do people really think that a company is going to say, “Our product is pretty good overall, but it really sucks at this, and you should probably not try using it like this or you might hurt yourself.”?

    This is like posting the sky is blue. Marketing is deceptive, welcome to life.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The problem I have with the commercials is that they are false. I pay for nearly everything with a credit card (but pay it off every month) and it is NEVER faster than cash. Even though you don’t have to sign for most small purchases any longer, it takes about 10 seconds for the transaction to go through. Most cashiers can make change in about 3-5 seconds.

    A side note – when I was in the south about a year ago, it actually took 3-4 minutes for the credit card transaction to go through. I could here the modem dialing in!

  10. jacques says:

    Seen the one with the Saints fans? I think it’s implying that not only you’re a loser who holds up the line if you use cash, but you’re also a homosexual. Or was that guy in the pink shirt supposed to embody upper-crust, goody-two-shoes people?

  11. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    @ViperBorg: Not all content can be muted; individual commenters on Consumerist, for example.

  12. ry81984 says:

    Cash is not slower than credit. Any competent cashier can make change just as fast, if not faster, than someone can complete a credit transaction.

    Checks are the problem. If they made a commercial calling those that use checks jerks then it would be funny and true.
    Why use checks when your checking account works with debit?

  13. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    The idea that you are going to be stared down for using anything other than cash is ludicrous. Whipping out a card for a ridiculously small purchase will likely get you the eye dagger treatment from others in line who know that cash is faster.

    Not to mention, shops would much rather have your cash. None of that purchase will need to be kicked back to Visa.

  14. wineinger says:

    I am surprised by the comments that cash is faster!?

    Cash: Hand money, type into cash register, say “Out of 20, thats 14.37” Draw opens. Attendant fishes out a ten, 4 ones, 1 quarter, 1 dime, and 2 pennies.

    Credit: Swipe (never had to wait more than 2-3 seconds). “here’s your receipt” done.

    I have done this at Starbucks every day for the past 3 years. I cringe when people reach for cash.

    PS Received $650 cash back from Amex last year. Fees paid: $0. Priceless.

  15. SVreader says:

    I hate those commercials. As others have stated, it’s quicker to use cash. When I used to be a cashier, customers were endlessly befuddled by the debit card prompts. “Cash back? Do I press ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Yes. Wait, no, I don’t want cash back.”

  16. TehRev says:

    @ LittleJohnny

    Just wait until you are in a self checkout line with an older person counting out pennies. I always laughed at these commercials. But recently though real life experiences they seem much less far fetched. I also run credit cards for everything and pay them off. It may actually be faster. Especially when you don’t have to sign.

  17. Pasketti says:

    The delays I experience in the store are never related to the payment methods of the people in line in front of me.

    It’s almost always one of the following:

    – The person who has lots of questions for the cashier.

    – The person isn’t ready to pay, and waits for the total before pulling out their wallet and getting their cash/credit card. The most annoying ones are the people that haven’t even started filling out the check.

    – The chatty person who keeps the cashier engaged in conversation, or the chatty cashier who engages each customer in conversation. I like friendly service, and enjoy the back and forth banter too, but when there’s a bigass line, they need to keep things moving.

    And I’ve noticed something lately about cashiers. With the barcode scanners and whatnot, many of them no longer know how to make change, and have to wait for the register to tell them how much change to give back. In that case, using the credit card may be faster.

  18. Jozef says:

    I like those Visa commercials. They are colorful and fluffy and have pretty good music. But in the end, they are just that – pretty commercials. I tend to use my own brain and pay with cash or debit card: I choose not to have a credit card.

  19. topgun says:

    Somebody a little cranky this morning?

  20. tasselhoff76 says:

    I think the harder part to swallow is these are the same companies that now seek to be bailed out by our tax dollars and the federal government for all the spending they did on bad investments (AGAIN) – subprime meltdown. “Oh, we never saw it coming. It seemed like such a prudent investment at the time.” Lies. They made bad investment decisions and put themselves in this situation and now they want another bailout. They seem to get one ever ten years. Maybe we should stop the cycle at some point.

  21. boandmichele says:


    i have not seen these commercials due to tivo. it is totally worth it to not subject myself, wife, and kids to a constant barrage of advertisting. this includes using adblocker for FF.


  22. hellinmyeyes says:

    Given the option, if I have cash on me, I prefer to pay with it so the business doesn’t have to pay any terminal fees for the card to process my small purchase. I’m not sure if they appreciate the effort, but hey. Those Visa commercials are so full of crap.

  23. JustAGuy2 says:


    Out of curiosity, why do you choose to use a debit card over a credit card?

  24. Anonymous says:

    On very small purchases, there is a good chance that the store is actually losing money on the transaction.

  25. topgun says:

    Nothing is as annoying as being in line behind the little blue haired old lady who fumbles through her purse for what seems to be an eternity looking for her check book. Take out another for 5 minutes for the shaky hand to write the check, ask to repeat the total 3 times and then look through the purse again for ID.

  26. frogman31680 says:

    what about the commercial where the guy writes out part of his check, only to stop and pay with his Visa. By the time he pulled it out of his wallet, he could have finished the check.

  27. Jozef says:

    Bad habit of mine. I grew up in a household that never had any debt, where I was taught fiscal responsibility. My parents told me we weren’t rich enough to afford debt… Since then, I decided not to participate in a system that rewards fiscally irresponsible behavior. As a result, I never applied for a credit card, instead opting to use a debit card when cash would be impractical (primarily on-line purchases).

  28. humphrmi says:

    The point I think the commercials are trying to make is that it is supposed to be faster now to pay with a credit card, between RFID cards / fobs and more importantly the ability to process a transaction under a certain amount without a signature.

    However, the commercials fail, IMHO, because the fact is that the no-sig-required rule is being applied inconsistently. I go to one 7-11 and they want my signature for an RFID purchase under ten bucks; I go to another an a swipe transaction of 15 bucks doesn’t need a signature.

    Before I agree that CC is faster than cash, they’re going to have to apply the rules they’ve implemented that make CC transactions faster more consistently.

    ‘Course, that doesn’t mean I won’t use my CC anyway; 30 days free float and free airline miles on top of that is what makes cash the second choice for me. I just pay off my balance every month.

  29. quail says:

    I kinda miss my days of using a checkbook for big purchases at a department store. Back in the 80’s, before my credit cards, I always had the checking balance in the check register to remind me of what I could and couldn’t afford. There were no impulse buys back then. I didn’t use a debit card back then either. Always just wrote a check for $25 over the amount at the grocery store and that was my spending cash. (Who here gets less than $40 or a $100 at an ATM anymore?) No terminal fees and no extra cash to waste on anything not essential. With electronic payments, my poor checkbook barely gets a workout anymore.

  30. melmoitzen says:

    It’s a grey area, but you can typically offer a discount from your listed prices to those paying cash versus credit. What you can’t do (VISA/MC) is impose a surcharge to those paying with credit or impose a minimum purchase requirement (something boldly overlooked by many smaller businesses).

    And so far as “all payment methods must be presented in equal fashion,” that means from credit card to credit card. IIRC, Discover and Amex agreements do not prohibit minimum purchases or credit surcharges per se; but if you accept VISA/MC, Discover & Amex require that the rules you set for their cards are the same. And since very few businesses accept Discover or Amex without also accepting the inflexible VISA/MC, all your cards are then tied in to the same rules.

  31. mammalpants says:

    try keeping that smooth flow going when paying in a restaurant! you have to wait for the server, the receipt, etc…screeeeeeeeeeeech!

    cash makes it easy for a quick getaway! in your frikkin face, visa!

  32. AnnC says:

    @boandmichele: I know what you’re saying. I got rid of my tv a few years ago and I don’t see any commercials anymore. The best way to not watch commericals is to not watch tv all together. You might have read about me in the paper; here’s the link. []

    Say, did I mention that I don’t watch tv?

  33. satoru says:

    @jamar0303: That’s somewhat suprising since I’ve found that Japan is the last bastion of a cash based society G6 nation. Using a credit card in Japan is a bit easier today, but it’s still very cash oriented. I also found Japan to be the only place where there’s ‘double dipping’ on interest. Basically when you make a credit purchase the retailer will give you an option to pay it full on your credit card, or you can pay in payments. I was totally confused initially since i can pay in payments with my credit card, isn’t that the point?

  34. JiminyChristmas says:

    Credit card companies would like nothing better than for their cards to replace cash, checks and debit cards as much as possible. The fees merchants (and by extension, you) pay vary quite a bit: a fixed fee of 15 to 30 cents on small purchases, or 1 to 5 percent of the sale.

    I don’t know what percentage of transactions CC companies touch now, but imagine if Visa, Mastercard, Discover and AMEX were making 3% on 75% of every purchase in the US. How many brazillions of dollars would that be?

    Every morning when I buy coffee about half of the people I see pay for $3-$5 purchases with cards. That means at least 5% of the merchant’s overhead on that purchase is the fee they have to pay to take that card. Yes, cards can be convenient. That said, if it were common knowledge that using credit cards adds 2%-5% to the cost of the purchase people might reassess the value of the convenience factor.

  35. satoru says:

    @melmoitzen: I’ve run across a few Amex only establishments. Mostly they were boutique shops. My theory is that by taking only Amex you weed out all the ‘losers’ who have no intention of buying anything of much value. Of course this was when the only card you could get from Amex was the gold card which was a charge card so the retailer knew you were going to actually pay off that $2000 suit. With even Amex providing a large number of credit cards, I’m not sure if this strategy makes sense anymore?

    The other place is Costco, which I’ve never been able to understand.

  36. JohnMc says:

    You know, if somebody is so simply swayed to spend money based on a arcane commercial then they have serious personal issues. For the consumer how they spend their money is under their control.

    Pet Peeve: Women who still write checks rather than using a debit card in line. It is slow and ponderous in comparison. What is worse is the 21st Century Banking Act has eliminated the ‘float’ of writing a check. The merchant scans the check and reconcilation occurs in 24hrs or less. Most banks these days don’t even send back the checks anymore.

  37. Buran says:

    Not really when you think about the fact that they want to look good so you’ll keep using them so they pretend to be on your side, but they make money when you use them so they play that up too.

  38. satoru says:

    @JiminyChristmas: I realize that I’m paying for convenience when I use a credit card. Mostly I hate carrying all that change around. Back when I lived in Canada, I’d use my credit card as much as possible. Carrying around $30 in loonies and toonies was a real pain and it wasn’t hard to get into that situation too. Since I’ve moved to the US paying with cash isn’t nearly as painful from a change accumulation standpoint. But I still prefer to pay with credit card just so I don’t have to empty my pockets full of change all the time.

  39. JustAGuy2 says:


    There are some Amex-only shops, usually due to the way Amex’s merchant charges are structured.

    If you take Amex+Visa+MC, Amex’s % is higher than Visa/MC, but if you just take Amex, the % is lower than Visa/MC.

  40. spamhead says:

    Your hearts are in the right place, but these commercials are specifically advertising Visa debit cards. They are not encouraging you to spend on credit, they’re encouraging you to use your debit card for purchases you would otherwise make with cash.

    I prefer using debit card for all purchases as it means I don’t have to take time to visit the ATM as often (or get hit with charges when I use a different bank’s ATM) and my bank offers redeemable ‘points’ with each use. If I use my debit card for all my bills and grocery shopping alone, every few months I can get a $50 gift certificate to Amazon or someplace like that.

    The retailers are paying the interchange on the transaction. I understand the argument that says that I’m paying it by extension, but if everyone were to abandon credit cards and go strictly cash from now on, does anyone really think that would translate into lower prices? If so, then stores should offer a 1% discount for using cash. Until then, I’m going to use the method of payment that’s most convenient for me, since it’s all coming out of the same account.

  41. EmmK says:

    I had to write a check at the grocery store a few weeks ago; I’d forgotten my wallet at home but happened to have the checkbook in my bag. I got a few odd looks and felt like I’d suddenly aged about 50 years. I honestly can’t remember the last time before that when I wrote a check in a store.

  42. Anonymous says:

    cash is king. always has been, always will be. and almost every store in my area makes you sign your reciept. including some drive thrus. so cash is WAY faster. plus cash protects from card frauds, the more you use them (cards), the greater your chances are of someone else using them. even though most cards protect against frauds, who wants to have the pain of calling and disputing a purchase? it surely can’t be as easy as the commercials make it see. – u know the one commercial where they call you, to ask about something you bought? gimmie a break.

  43. humphrmi says:

    @JiminyChristmas: I’m with you on that sentiment, really I am. But it’s going to take a huge movement to change. Also, people at the top of the credit bracket get most of that money back in rewards, so in a way it’s really a regressive fee (e.g. merchants charge more to everyone because CC companies charge them, but a small percentage of people get some of that fee back from the CC company directly).

  44. I agree that if you don’t like the commercial, you have the power to look away. I will also admit that these commercials are one of the reasons I only carry my debit card most of the time. I hate going to my ATM for cash anyway, and the last time I tried to get cash back in a store, the cashier told me she couldn’t give me money because “she had just opened the register and wasn’t able to do that yet.”

  45. SOhp101 says:

    Cash is much faster, but I do agree with the check writing vs. ATM card argument.

    @JohnMc: It’s not a conscious choice, but commercials like this really do encourage ATM charges all around.

    I still don’t buy the ‘use the ATM’ card argument. I like my purchases to have better protection with a free monthly loan without my actual money being on the line, thanks.

  46. Anonymous says:

    isn’t it wonderful how the credit card companies want to give “rewards”? let me see how this works,

    they want to give you a “gift” which means they are going to charge a little more to merchants, who then raise the price of everything slighty to make up the difference, and people who pay cash on items pay that increase without any increase in their wage.

    hmmm…so the credit card companies get all the credit for giving you a gift that i basically paid for. i should at least get to sign a card or something! to jon doe customer from all consumers! lol- now shut up and pay me!

  47. sonichghog says:

    @wineinger: Its only slower when you are behind the old lady who has to pay EXACTLY the $9.97 Using 9 ones,2 quarters, 3 dimes, 2 nickles, and 7 pennies. Each brought out of her purse one at a time.

  48. JustAGuy2 says:


    Yup, that’s exactly how it works. Then again, when I use a credit card, I pay for a portion of the armored car that brings cash to and from the store, so I should get a card.

    You, as a consumer, aren’t big enough to materially impact prices, so if you get a credit card, you won’t drive up prices, but you will get the rewards (I get 1.5% cash back). You can’t beat ’em, so join ’em.

  49. TVarmy says:

    Maybe I just have slow hands, but I can’t do a signature that fast. And the ones that scan via RFID without a signature scare me, even if they only work for purchases under $20. However, I do like to use my debit card for purchases as then it gets automatically recorded on

  50. WraithSama says:

    I find it funny and also kind of sad that the Barbie playshop toy commercials you see on TV always include credit cards. One of the latest ones I’ve seen on TV really seem to try to drive home the idea that “credit cards = shopping!!!”. I’m sure Mattel gets nice little kickbacks from the credit industry to help market to young girls who are being increasingly lead to believe that shopping is the key to happiness and credit cards are free money.

  51. TechnoDestructo says:

    Cash is never declined, never needs to be re-scanned because it didn’t go through, doesn’t require the POS to start a dial-up connection to wherever…I don’t even see how the credit card conga line would work any better than cash.

  52. WraithSama says:

    I find it even funnier that not a couple hours after I posted my last comment about that Barbie credit card play set that the Consumerist posted a full article about the same thing.

  53. dasunst3r says:

    Weighing in on this as a college student, I have this much to say: When I use cash, it means that I love the business enough to give them cold, hard money with zero fees and zero delay. ***** and moan some more and I’ll make sure they won’t have to go to the bank for pennies for a year!

  54. spamhead says:

    Retailers must factor credit card charges into their price – it’s a reality of doing business. My price as a consumer is going to include those hidden charges regardless of what choice I make – why shouldn’t I make the choice that rewards me back a little? If we all start using cash tomorrow, prices don’t go down, corporate profits just go up.

    I fully understand that I’m playing the bank’s game, but at least it’s an I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine proposition.

  55. anatak says:

    “…Visa would prefer you not use a debit card.”

    I would bet that their strategy is to use the debit cards as a gateway drug to the credit card lifestyle they are rally promoting.

    No, they encourage you to spend money on a Visa (TM) card. They encourage the belief that life takes (read: requires) Visa. They are trying to build up these myths – Visa cards are more convenient than cash, Visa cards are easier than cash, Visa cards are more responsible than cash…. Because they know that consumers will, on average, spend more when they check out with plastic as opposed to paper. This is why fast food industry jumped on the plastic bandwagon 6 years ago. This is all their slow and steady and constant attempt to force these ideas into your head through their marketing. And if marketing didn’t work, then they wouldn’t be spending billions on it per year. The argument is valid and it is something that the Consumerist should be concerned about.

    Besides all of that, the commercials are totally false. Even if there were a large difference in checkout times between cash and plastic, it’s totally negligible.

  56. CumaeanSibyl says:

    The main factor in slowing down transactions is always human error. If I fill in everything but the payment amount in a check while my groceries are being scanned, then it doesn’t take more than a few seconds to write in $X.XX and hand the check to the cashier. If I have my cash or credit card out in advance, same deal.

    Of course, there are still quite a few stores with old scanning equipment that take time to dial into the network and clear your purchase. Other stores have old equipment that takes a while to process a check. Cash is really the only payment method that doesn’t rely on the quality of a store’s infrastructure — you can pay cash even if someone’s working out of a metal cashbox, and still get in and out in about the same time.

    I use my credit card for almost all of my purchases. I just don’t like the implication that using other forms of legal tender makes me an inconsiderate jerk, or a weirdo, or whatever. Some people will have trouble dealing with any method of payment — taking forever to fill out a check, counting pennies or trying to switch bills on the cashier, staring at the swipe machine like they’ve never seen one before — but that doesn’t mean any method of payment is superior.

  57. magus_melchior says:

    @wineinger: A couple of points: (1) Just because it’s faster at Starbucks, doesn’t mean it’s faster everywhere. A cashier with a change machine that requires a signature for a credit card is slower than simply handing over a five dollar bill. (2) If you’re able to swipe and go at the Starbucks, so can the guy who steals your wallet.

  58. snark_nerd says:

    @jacques: I just saw this ad, jacques, and I came to this thread to see if anyone else had noticed it. (Here’s a link for those who haven’t seen it.) How outrageous! I’d say that there’s no mistaking the clear implication: only fags use cash and (by implication) if you want everyone to know that you’re a manly man, you’ll rack up credit card debt. Way to go, Visa, another high point in consumer advertising!

  59. melmoitzen says:

    @satoru: Costco does $47B in sales annually. I would imagine Amex is quite happy to cut their transaction % charge in order to be the exclusive credit card for a business that size with an average transaction of >$450.

    In addition, Costco heavily promotes co-branded Amex cards, which generate a lot of business for Amex outside of Costco’s warehouses.