Thursday, January 15, 2009

Going cashless - against the grain

Forever the contrarian, it seems.  While others are opting for cash only transactions to avoid credit card balances, I am doing just the opposite.  I have streamlined my wallet to include only my ID, one credit card, an ATM/Debit card and a couple of insurance information cards. 

I have a few reasons for making this change:

  • Thinner, smaller wallet that is easier to conceal and carry
  • Faster transactions
  • Cash back on card purchases means more money in my pocket
  • Eliminate hassle of carrying change coins

 Some other potential benefits:

  • Reduce chances of overpaying.  For example, handing over a 20, but receiving change for a 10
  • Eliminate the handling of tainted and/or counterfeit bills

And of course, some of the cons might be:

  • Credit card not accepted everywhere
  • Vendor refuses transaction due to low purchase amount
  • More people handling my credit card could increase chances of ID theft/fraud

I decided to put the new system to test this past week while on a three day business trip.  At first, it seemed a little strange to use a card to pay for a 2 dollar and 17 cent item.  However, the cashier didn’t hesitate at all when I handed over a credit card.  The best part is that the deal is cleaner and much faster, since a signature is not required on transactions less than $25 and some vendors accept even larger amounts.

It all went smoothly, except for a couple of instances.  In one case, I stopped at a kiosk for a newspaper and coffee in an airport.  Payment was on the honor principle!  The kiosk had a container with a slot and a sign “please pay with correct change”.   Since I was so impressed with the fact that anybody would use an honor system in a large city airport, I just had to participate.  By throwing a couple of bucks in the pot, I wanted to show the vendor and the world that there is some hope for the future of humankind!  That’s right, some folks will pay for services simply because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s the law. 

Fortunately, I didn’t do this cashless experiment cold turkey.  I had three dollar bills and a twenty – just in case.

The next cash only situation occurred at my hotel. The hotel offered complimentary breakfast buffet and it was so good and the waitress so friendly that I wanted to leave a tip.  I could have asked to have a tip placed on my room bill, but who knows if the waitress would have received that?   Leaving cash on the table was the best way to make sure she got the tip.

From this trial, I can see that I still need to stash a few bucks for tips, especially when I travel.  So, my wallet may not be as thin as I would like, but then again, I just found another way to eliminate my ATM/debit card by turning my drivers license into a debit card!


  1. Another big advantage is - by using only credit cards, if you are also using Money/ Quicken to track your spending, you will never miss the multiple cups of coffee you are gulping down a day! Helps you to track and then maybe change your behavior too. With cash, unless you remember to enter it, it is not usually tracked well.

  2. yes, that's right most of my ATM cash was not previously tracked. Now I have the ability to know exactly where all that "mad money" is going!