Home Depot Asks: "Why Pay Cash Even If You Could?"

Reader Dan thought we’d be interested in this sign he spotted in his local Home Depot. It reads: “Why pay cash even if you could?”

While we do recommend you pay for large purchases with a credit card and then pay it off immediately in order to take advantage of the credit card’s various warranty/ purchase protection benefits, we sort of suspect that Home Depot is suggesting something else.

So how about you answer Home Depot’s question in the comments. What are the benefits of paying cash?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Bladefist says:

    It’s anonymous. Nobody knows that’s the 5th plunger you’ve been through in a week.

  2. KatieKate93 says:

    That’s kind of condescending, in that it assumes that the average customer really can’t afford what they’re selling. My first thought would be not how they’re trying to suck people into the debt spiral with their little jab, but more like “what a rude little sign”.

  3. timmus says:

    Could we have some contextual information about the sign? Is it stuck on a big ticket item? On the register? This would help us out!

  4. IphtashuFitz says:

    Fine. I’ll use my charge card for that $0.39 washer I need. Let them lose money on the transaction with the credit card company.

  5. davebg5 says:

    By paying cash I might end up getting a contact high from all of the drugs that are on our currency in circulation and really, who doesn’t like free drugs?

  6. I think it’s a perfectly legitimate – if snarky – question; unless you’re buying a pack of gum or something, a credit card is the way to go.

  7. @timmus: Kinda looks like the door to a microwave from here.

    I think that it’s a fairly legit statement, but only because I pay off my card every month. Home Depot is just making it to try to get a buck on the HD credit card.

  8. opsomath says:

    Because in this ridiculously information-gathering corporate culture in which we live, I get a small thrill from the fact that no one knows what I’m buying.

  9. meg9 says:

    Using cash instead of your debit can help you prevent those wacky overdraft fees.

    I will never have another 37 dollar cup of starbucks coffee of the day again if I just take a minute to scrape 2 dollars out of my purse instead of debiting it when the bank has held a big deposit for no reason and processed 6 small transactions first. :)

  10. johnva says:

    @The Count of Monte Fisto: Even for a pack of gum, credit cards are the way to go, in my opinion.

  11. zarex42 says:

    What’s wrong with that? As long as you’re not foolish enough to carry a balance, CC’s are the way to go. You get an automatic 1% discount on everything, per cash-back and points! It would be foolish not to use CC’s for everything.

  12. @johnva: So you’re the guy who’s always in front of me in line when I’m in a hurry!

  13. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    @KatieKate93: Agreed. They should have stopped at “Why Pay Cash?” But unless the sign is in the context of a special financing offer, what the hell? Why put a needless, obvious sign up-even if you could?

  14. peggyhill says:

    Home Depot wants you to run up your credit cards so you default on them. Then you default on the mortgage. Then you lose your home to foreclosure. Next, your house, likely a small crack shack gets auctioned off by the bank and purchased by a developer that levels the home, then buys the materials and fixtures for the rebuild… from Home Depot.

  15. Murph1908 says:

    I’m one who pays almost everything with credit cards, and pay it off within a couple of days with online banking. Like a delivery guy, I usually carry no more than $20 in cash. It racks up the free gas pretty quick on my BP card.

    Except when I need it for cash-only transactions, like hookers and blow.

  16. theblackdog says:

    I call shenanigans, how hard would it be for a customer to stick a piece of paper on the display/wall/shelf/whatever this is as a prank?

  17. Cliff_Donner says:

    I tend to use my CC only for online purchases and expensive items that I want covered by the CC’s purchase protection benefits.

    Because I completely review my CC bill each month to make sure it is accurate, I want it to be as simple as possible. I don’t want to have to document and revisit every pack of gum or sandwich I may have bought in the past 30 days.

    As for the Home Depot sign, I’m not exactly sure what their point is, but it does seem a little snarky.

  18. I find this funny, because I remember a few years ago when my parents paid for new countertops and linoleum for our kitchen from HD in cash. They were completely floored, as if the concept of paying in cash was entirely foreign.

    It was hilarious.

  19. ibored says:

    I buy all my wood in cash…

    Although the CC does make taxes easier for a lot of things for small business owners and other tax reasons when shopping at places like Home Depot

  20. SigmundTheSeaMonster says:

    “Why buy here?”

    @TalKeaton: Funny! You joked. (see “floored” and linoleum pun)

  21. oneliketadow says:

    That sign probably is related to buying carpet or something large on a Home Depot card or Home Depot credit program. There is probably another sign above saying “No Payments and No Interest for 1 year!”

  22. josephbloseph says:

    So here Home Depot recommends that we use credit, while Canadian Tire gives CTM as a cash incentive?

  23. DWalk says:

    Because debt is stupid.

    See: current state of American economy

  24. silver-spork says:

    To keep your CC number away from thieving employees.

    My husband’s number was stolen from a local store a few months ago (we know it was local because someone was ordering stuff online and having it delivered locally) and it was a huge hassle to right the ship.

    We pay our balances every month and enjoy the frequent flier miles, but dealing with fraud is a big concern.

  25. DWalk says:

    @josephbloseph: Canadian Tire Money is simply one of the genius things of this world. Feels like cash, spends like cash, you get a good feeling collecting it, and charities will accept it. Getting $2-$3 in CTM when buying gas is satisfying, and takes the edge of CT’s higher prices. Canadian Tire Money rocks.


  26. Because that way you can’t track every little purchase I make and decide to send me targeted circulars filled with things that I have no intention of purchasing. I shop at Home Depot for the discount most of the time, but if I need a few nails or a some simple stuff, there’s a hardware store just down the road. And if I want quality lumber, I go to a lumber yard.

  27. clevershark says:

    Their usage of “if you could” also imply that you, the customer, couldn’t possibly have enough cash to buy the item… which, when you think about it, makes the whole sticker moot in the first place. The sign should have said “even if you can”.

  28. Flyerist says:

    @theblackdog: My thoughts exactly. How about posting a homemade sign “If you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it” and “Imagine how much better you’d feel if you paid cash”. I am ‘righting my ship’ financially, and I think these things whenever I’m in a store.

  29. SadSam says:

    At Home Depot we often use the 10% off coupons for large purchases (over $500) which are only valid if you use the HD credit card. We then pay off the card in full.

    But otherwise we use debit (cash) for all purchases and we have no debt except our mortgage.

  30. shrike071 says:

    I am the guy that took the picture. It was at a Home Depot in Woodstock, GA, and was stuck to a $3,000 GE microwave/range combo. I thought it was odd because there wasn’t anything else explaining the context of the question. No credit offer, no incentive to charge – just this nebulous question…

  31. Megladon says:


    Pff that .39 cent washer only cost them 5 cents, they mark the item up 7-8 times on items that low in value, your the sucker then, not them. My guess is HD would love you to buy tons of them.

  32. forgottenpassword says:


    You’re lucky noone called the cops on them. Because everyone knows only drug dealers buy anything expensive with cash! lol

    I’ve often wondered what would happen if I walked into a dealership & wanted to buy a brand new car with $20,000 in cash.

  33. vladthepaler says:

    Strange… I don’t know of a good reason to not use cash, long as cash is an option. Cash is secure, private and confidential. Use plastic and some minimum wage employee has your account information, it goes into some possibly-badly-secured corporate system where hackers can help themselves, your purchase history goes to your credit card company and to all of their “affiliates” including the ones you can’t opt out of, you earn a “prior business relationship” with the company you purchased from, which entitles them to telemarket to you if they so choose… Where’s the upside?

  34. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @Bladefist: “You know they sold me the 7th plunger? By throwing the 8th one in for free! Heh heh heh heh heh, ain’t America great?!”

    -Kids in the Hall

  35. econobiker says:

    I hate that the self serve registers at Home Depot, et al do not have a coin acceptor larger than a small slot. These places can have a little bowl to sent coins to as your change but not for you to use I understand that the grocery stores have a coinstar or similar contract to rip off people 10% for laziness, but Home Depot and other places should have a better slot arrangement.

    One time, we wrapped over $50 to buy a ceiling fan. The service checkout woman looked at us like we were aliens from another planet when we presented the nicely wrapped coins (And $30 was in 3 rolls of quarters). I told her that we would have fed the self-service register but the hole was too small. With a harumph she took the coins…

  36. MickeyMoo says:

    @DWalk: Unless you’re trying to return something –


  37. Nofsdad says:

    Amazing how few people catch on to that.

    Of course, everyone posting here is a responsible credit user who pays their balance off every month faithfully but I suspect that for every one of those there are ten that don’t and those people… coupled with the predatory banks and credit card companies that have become an industry in themselves these past few years… are one of the major reasons the economy is in the shambles it’s in.

  38. Meggers says:

    @forgottenpassword: My mom actually bought a new (to her) car with cash a few years ago. The car probably cost about 17K but she wanted to pay for it all in cash because she could and she wanted to see their faces.

    They took the cash and then had her wait while they checked it in case it was counterfeit. I am sure that they thought she was a drug dealer but what kind of drug dealer is buying a dodge van?

  39. ManiacDan says:

    Personally, I take advantage of every 0% interest offer I can get my hands on. Right now I have about $5,000 on a 0% account from a furniture store. That same amount of cash is in a 5% CD, by the time the interest kicks in in 2012 I’ll have enough to pay it off in full plus a lot extra.

  40. Sudonum says:

    My wife and I just bought a car with a large sum of cash via wire transfer, but I am assuming you mean walking into a dealership with a bag full of bills. I was with a friend of mine about 10 years ago who did just that, the dealer looked at him like he was nuts, but had no problem taking it, other than filling out a form from the Treasury Department. It was around $25k in cash, I don’t know if the Feds came knocking on his door afterwards or not. The best part was watching three people count it three times.

  41. Ragman says:

    @Meggers: “They took the cash and then had her wait while they checked it in case it was counterfeit. I am sure that they thought she was a drug dealer but what kind of drug dealer is buying a dodge van?”

    Drug dealers don’t need to counterfeit money. Biker gangs have been known to use vans to haul their illicit items, so when a biker gets pulled over and searched, the van rolls on by, and the biker is clean.

    It seems almost every place where I hand a bill larger than $5 checks it for counterfeit. I wouldn’t expect a dealership to be any different.

    That form they fill out is for any cash transaction over $10k. It’s to create a paper trail in case you’re trying to launder money. Also helps the IRS to get you for back taxes if you make a large purchase with unreported cash.

  42. dragonfire81 says:

    @vladthepaler: Well it’s nice to know I am not the only one who still likes to do business with cash frequently.

    It’s anonymous, quick, secure. You don’t have to worry about overdraft fees and any other surcharges or limitations.

    In my opinion it’s the most efficient way to pay for smaller ticket items. There are absolutely no conditions attached to it. When was the last time you saw a post on consumerist about a customer upset they had to show ID to pay with CASH? That’s right, never.

    While I do appreciate the protections credit cards offer for larger purchases, if I am buying anything under say $100, I usually pay cash and I have seldom had issues doing returns or refunds on those transactions.

  43. Ragman says:

    Oh, and I meant to add: Home Despot wants you to use credit so they can upsell you. Added benefit is when you default on the CC payments, it’s not their loss.

  44. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    This actually reminds me of the Burger King commercials a few years back, where they were advertising their relatively inexpensive fast food meals by implying that two characters in the commercial, junior college students, probably didn’t have much money and should therefore eat at Burger King

  45. TouchMyMonkey says:

    @Bladefist: Until they put RFID chips in all the currency, that is.

  46. ignar says:

    I understand what Home Depot tries to do, but honestly, I use a credit card for 99% of my purchase anyway. I never see a point of using debit card over credit card. If you use debit card or cash believing they help you stay financially sound, it’s time to train yourself to budget and control spending better. Credit cards are generally safer, transactions are trackable, you get benefits such as price protection, warranty extension, rewards, and you earn more interest since your cash will stay in your savings account for longer time. In addition, if something goes wrong, you can ask a credit card company to take a look into it. Just remember though 1)don’t carry balance, and 2)don’t use a Home depot card.

  47. Norcross says:

    I like my Home Depot trick. When they have the 1 year no payment / interest when spending $300 bucks or more, I’ll use my HD card and ‘purchase’ a gift card, which qualifies for the deal. Then, I pay off the credit balance over the next year (all at zero interest), while at the same time I have money for whatever random thing I need from the Depot. My house is almost 100 years old, so I always need something.

  48. scienceclub says:

    I think a microwave oven is one of the few things I would actually go into debt to buy. They DO make life cheaper.

    Also, this is even better than the Home Depot Shed prank!

  49. Erwos says:

    If someone mugs me and steals my CC, I can fix that.

    If someone mugs me and takes my cash, I’m screwed.

    Having been robbed as a kid, I’m decidedly cash averse. That doesn’t mean I’m financially irresponsible.

  50. quagmire0 says:

    @Bladefist – very nice.

    As for Home Depot, I’m guessing they are trying to avoid the credit card and financing fees they’d have to pay. In general though, it’s good advice. If you can drop that onto a good rewards card and then pay it off, do it.

  51. @forgottenpassword: Got a brand new Chrysler Sebring in April that way.

    Salesman: So let’s talk financing.
    Me: No need. Just let me run down to the bank and make a withdrawal. That should give you enough time to have it detailed by the time I get back.

    They were pissed. 9k off sticker, plus no financing. Epic.

  52. SinisterMatt says:


    “Credit cards are generally safer, transactions are trackable, you get benefits such as price protection, warranty extension, rewards, and you earn more interest since your cash will stay in your savings account for longer time.”

    But don’t you get the some of the same benefits from using a debit card too? And, I would submit to you, the interest you get in a savings account is pretty small. If you wanted to make money by using a credit card instead of savings, it would make more sense to invest it in a money market account.

    I honestly don’t understand the whole “use a credit card and pay it off at the end of the month” thing. From a financial point of view, it’s the same thing as using cash, so why not simplify and use cash?


  53. Nytmare says:

    Why insert a middle-man with a 3% fee into the transaction, when you could just as easily do without that? Yeah I know it’s not my money, but I also don’t go into the Home Depot bathrooms and flush all their toilets 7 times just because it’s not my water.

  54. kathyl says:

    Well, think about it logically. Is the store suggesting this altruistically, thinking only of you and your best interests? Or is it more likely that what they’re suggesting is better for them in the big picture, that they make more money off of store purchases when people finance them via their store credit card?

    One of them seems much more likely, doesn’t it?

  55. kathyl says:

    @SinisterMatt: It is my understanding that with many debit cards, you do NOT get the same protections as you do when you use a conventional credit card. You can’t do a chargeback, for one, with a debit card. I’m pretty sure you don’t get a lot of the other buyer protections with a debit card, either.

  56. Stavro Mueller says:


    Not all CC companies will drop all fraudulent charges, same goes for your bank-issued debit card. Then you have the stores themselves sending the collection agencies after you because “you” didn’t pay for the $10k worth of computers they sold to “you”.

    Personally, I use a paypal debit card with only $100 on it. If someone takes that, they don’t have access to my entire bank account as they would with a debit card, and I don’t have to spend thousands in legal fees to fight the ensuing lawsuits from overambitious collection agencies.

  57. anatak says:

    @DWalk: Spot on.

    how about, because I can pay for it ONCE and be done with the transaction instead of taking on the risk of having to pay the bill again in exchange for some fake benefit.

  58. digitalgimpus says:

    They want you to finance.

    No company wants credit cards. They suck since there’s transaction fees.

    They would rather you pay cash… they then get to pocket the transaction fee.

    That can be 3% extra money.

  59. Saeculorum says:

    @Stavro Mueller: Every credit card company is legally required to drop fraudulent charges over $50 if reported within 60 days of the receipt of the bill. It’s a provision in the Fair Credit Billing Act. Unfortunately, it only covers credit cards, not debit cards, which is why debit cards are evil.

  60. jetfxr27 says:

    I paid cash for a $2000+ Tv at Sams in all twenties. Yes I was that guy. The bad thing is I returned a TV to Costco and they paid me in twenties. Easy come easy go.

  61. jetfxr27 says:

    Oh BTW I have no credit cards and pay with cash and Debit cards.

  62. sean77 says:

    @Sudonum: buying a car with cash is a surefire way to get your own FBI file.

  63. Ragman says:

    @SinisterMatt: “I honestly don’t understand the whole “use a credit card and pay it off at the end of the month” thing. From a financial point of view, it’s the same thing as using cash, so why not simplify and use cash?” No, it’s not the same as using cash. You’re not out the amount if robbed, and if you use a rewards card, you can get cashback. That’s what we happy CC users do. And no, we don’t spend because we get cashback, we just put the purchase we would have made anyway on a more financially advantageous method of payment.

  64. bagumpity says:

    Another reason: So you can give the cashier extra change after she’s punched in the total amount you already gave her. “Oh- it was $5.39? Let me give you $11.74 so you don’t have to give me back an odd number of bills.” And then watch the confusion.

  65. TVarmy says:

    Seems to me they have an employee with a subversive sense of humor, or some guy decided to put up that note as a joke.

  66. Stavro Mueller says:

    @Saeculorum: That doesn’t stop retailers from coming after you directly, bypassing the CC company altogether. It may be illegal, but since when have laws stopped megacorporations from doing what they want.

  67. Aisley says:

    To all those Consumerist fans that pay for “everything” with credit cards, there’s a little something you need to know. The credit card companies LOOOVE when you pay for everything with CC’s. This allow them to raise your interest rate. Why, you ask? Well, they take it upon themselves to think that you may have a big, not registered debt. And this is what makes you pay for everything else with CCs. Care to guess what they give you as an award for this? Yeap, you’re right, an increased interest rate! So, do you still think is a good idea to pay everything with credit cards?

  68. nidolke says:

    I usually never carry cash and rock the debit card. I’m thinking about switching to mostly cash though. This is only supporting my urge to switch.

  69. drjayphd says:

    I blame Office Depot moles, trying to pay for everything in pennies. (And here I thought the point of viral ads was that we weren’t SUPPOSED to be told they were ads. Silly me.)

  70. Sudonum says:

    If you’ve been paying attention, most of those Consumerist readers also PAY OFF their credit cards every month so there is no interest to pay. That’s kind of a recurring theme at this site, pay with your CC to get the benefits and pay the bill in full every month to avoid the interest.

  71. Sudonum says:

    And I forgot the most important part, if you can’t pay the bill off at the end of the month, then you can’t afford the item.

  72. Lucky225 says:

    Yea, Why pay cash when you can take advantage of credit, not pay, and then go to collections at the default APR! YAY!

  73. redsox says:

    The Home Depot is currently in distress at least up here in Canada. There has been quite alot of push down from the top to push credit cards on customers as apparently, if you have the card in your wallet, you will use it.

    They’ve even gone as far as to call customers who have a credit card and haven’t used it to remind them that they have the card.

  74. dragonfire81 says:

    @redsox: Just another reason I avoid Home Depot like the plague.

  75. shufflemoomin says:

    I rarely use cash and don’t use a credit card, but I do use my debit card. It’s just more convenient to me. What’s the point of going to an ATM to withdraw cash to hand it over in a store? You can just use the same card in store and save time. Also, if I take out 10 bucks and buy something at 5, then I’m more tempted to use the change I have instead of spending the exact amount on card. As for overdraft fees on your card, it seems odd to me that people would go out to buy something and not ever know what they have in their account.

  76. AgentTuttle says:

    When a corporation wants you to do something, it’s time to do the exact opposite.

  77. Con Seannery says:

    @forgottenpassword: You mean you don’t buy your mansions with sacks of pennies carried by your servants?

  78. wellfleet says:

    This is stuck on the door of a GE profile oven. It frightens me that I know this… That said, paying with cash is not always a great idea:

    1. Many stores do not offer a cash-back form of refund over a certain amount. You’ll have your money in limbo waiting for a check in the mail;
    2. If you lose your receipt, a cash transaction is difficult to trace and sometimes impossible, so if you need to return the item, you may be SOL;
    3. Zero possibility of getting a chargeback in case of issues;

    However, stores get kickbacks for credit card sign-ups from the issuing bank, and many save the checklane tender they would have otherwise paid Visa or Mastercard, i.e. the Home Depot card doesn’t cost HD anything when it’s used as tender, but your CapitalOne card costs them 3%.

    Financing can be great if you use it wisely…

  79. ghettoimp says:

    Home Depot is the only store credit card I have, and it’s been pretty well-worth having. No interest for a year on our countertops meant we could keep that money in the savings account for an extra year. They’ve also sent us a lot of coupons in the mail, usually $10-50 off a purchase of however much, and since we’re always needing things from there it’s saved us a good deal of money.

    But gosh, yesterday at Kohl’s we were checking out and the cashier wanted us to get their credit card, but we rarely shop there so naturally we said “no, thanks.” Then, when my wife swiped her card to pay, the card-reader thing asked for her social! The cashier acted as if it were a natural part of the transaction, but when we offendedly refused she pushed some button to skip it. I’m not sure how subtle they could make a credit-card signup, but wow that felt sleazy.

  80. redkamel says:

    cash: always runs out when I need it. I dont have time to go the ATM every day, nor the idiocy store hundreds in my apt.

    CC: I dont like doing the math; how much is on my cc? how much in my bank? when is my cc bill due?

    debit card is the way to go. I can check online and see exactly how much I have left.

    also, I am GLAD someone at home depot has a dark sense of humor about the economy. I thought it was actually pretty funny.

  81. redkamel says:

    “..the idiocy TO store..”. Or proofread, apparently.

  82. u1itn0w2day says:

    If it’s an emergency or something and you cannot flat out afford it then consider credit but if you are buying on whim like that’s cool or I gotta have that then you are done.

    Too me over use of credit can cause INFLATION,PRIME example is the housing bubble-easy credit prices go up hard credit the prices go down.You whip out the plastic and sign you just contributed to inflation.

    I must of missed it but what item is that sign on?

  83. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    @Saeculorum: In this state debit cards are afforded the same fraud protection that credit cards do, meaning you can chargeback anything over $50.

    Massachusetts, if you’re curious.

  84. Ragman says:

    @redkamel: How much is on your CC? Go online and check. Ditto for your bank balance. What’s your due date? The same day each month – and you get to pick when you want your due date.

    You make it sound like you’re a little cavalier with your debit card, having to go check your balance to see how much you have left. Sounds like you need to get a budget together.

  85. tworld says:

    My husband and I put EVERYTHING we buy (even a $2 item) and some everyday bills (phone, internet service, car insurance, etc.) on our Chase Visa card, then pay the entire bill every month so we do not pay any interest.

    Our Chase Visa card offers from 1% to 5% back to us on items purchased as CREDIT, not debit. The 5% rate includes gas, pharmacy, and particular stores that count for triple points. Every month we have enough points to receive a $100 check (sometimes more). That’s $1,200 (or more) in cash per year! Nothing to sneeze at.