Ladies and gentlemen, I come to you today with an important news bulletin: there are still human beings, walking among us, who pay for things with cash.
And I don’t mean the general term “cash,” as in they pay for things in full. I mean there are people who walk around carrying fives, and tens, and twenties, and sometimes even fifties, all of which feature portraits of dead men who are now considered monsters because of things they did back when you counted on church bells to tell you the time.
I discovered this the other night when I went to dinner with a friend. Here’s what happened: we ate our meal, and we had a great time, and we laughed, and talked, and chatted. And then the bill came. So I pulled out my trusty credit card, like most normal human adults of the 21st century. But my friend pulled out a wad of cash. When the waitress came back with the final bills, I was thinking he might try and calculate the tip using an abacus.
Over the years, I’ve asked a lot of people why they carry cash, and I’ve never really received a very good answer. Oh, sure, I’ve received some answers. But they’re always on the same level as the answer you get from your dog when you come home to discover the remote control now has teeth marks where the volume button used to be.
One of the most common things people tell me when I ask why they carry cash is that they don’t trust themselves with a credit card. This is a common mantra. “Oh,” they say, “I can’t do credit cards. I know myself. I would just spend and spend!”
Well, folks, here’s a little newsflash: this is not the fault of the credit card. The credit card does not sit in your wallet with a giant speaker that routinely repeats the phrase SPEND, SPEND, SPEND, over and over, like the revolving beacon on a lighthouse. What the credit card does is, it silently remains where you place it, taking up no more room than a stick of gum. If you don’t trust yourself not to spend so much, I suggest that you either a) seek professional help with serious addiction issues that are plaguing you and causing you intense discomfort, and personal pain, and emotional agony, or b) stop being such an idiot.
Of course, there are other arguments, too. Another one I hear frequently is along the lines of: What if the place I’m going doesn’t take credit cards? And I admit this is a legitimate, reasonable point that could in fact come up if this were 1974 and we were living in Sri Lanka.
In our modern society, everywhere takes credit cards, with only two exceptions: number one, the credit card companies themselves, because you can’t pay for a credit card with a credit card. And number two, the DMV. Oh, sure, the DMV has a credit card machine. But the only person trained to use it is Gary, and he’s out at lunch. No, we don’t know when he will be back. Next in line?
It’s gotten to the point, in our world, where even parking meters take credit cards. It used to be that you’d pull up to a parking meter, and you had to wrestle with nickels, and dimes, and quarters, and Sacajawea golden dollars in order to pay your parking tab. But in our modern world, things have changed. Now you can pull right up to a parking meter, stick your credit card inside, and discover that the machine is currently out of service.
It’s not just widespread acceptance that makes credit cards so great. Here’s another benefit: you don’t have to pay them off until later. Even if you simply wait until the end of the month to pay your credit card bill like a good financial denizen, you can still have wild fun with your money in the meantime. For example: if I use my credit card today to purchase an electron microscope, it’ll be weeks before I actually have to pay anything. This means I can do many enjoyable things with my money in the meantime, such as go to the casino and gamble all my cash in an effort to afford more electron microscopes. I believe this is sound financial advice, though I should remind you at this point that I am not a financial planner. I am a writer from the Internet.
You cannot do this with cash. With cash, you must spend all your money up front, and then you won’t be able to do anything fun. You’ll have to spend the rest of your days actually looking at electrons.
Here’s another benefit to credit cards: if you lose your cash, it’s gone forever. For example: say you’re walking down the street and you get mugged. Or you’re trying to pay a pretzel vendor and you drop your wallet in a sewer, where it is immediately eaten by rats the size of a Coke bottle. Or you’re at a movie and your wallet falls below the seat, and it’s so sticky down there that it can only be retrieved by a giant, machine-powered spatula. All of these common, likely scenarios would result in you losing whatever cash you’re carrying at that moment. But if you were lose your credit card, nothing happens! They merely mail you a new one and you have to change all your Amazon billing information.
And so I say to you cash people: join the 21st century! Get a credit card! Ditch your cash! You’ll thank me the next time your wallet falls into a sewer.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He divides his time between writing about cars and sitting around his house watching Gilmore Girls without any pants on. Also, he wrote this bio himself in the third person.