Is There a Best Method of Payment?

by AJ Pettersen · 5 comments

Wallet with dollars and credit card

You choose how to pay every time you make a purchase. Sometimes you can choose from several methods of payment, and other times, you’re limited by your location. My wife and I use a combination of credit cards, debit cards, checks, and cash, depending on where we’re making our purchase.

What methods of payment do you use? Do you have a preference?

Credit Cards

Pros: Credit cards are a very popular form of payment, and they let you pay on our own schedule. They help to build credit, which will assist you in making large purchases in the future. Credit cards can also have rewards. My wife and I have a travel perks card that gives us about 2.5 cents per dollar spent towards flights.

In-store credit cards sometimes offer even higher returns and interest-free periods. Some stores offer up to a 5% rebate on every purchase if you use your card to buy products.

Cons: Credit cards can be overused. If you use a credit card and can’t pay it off in full by the payment date, you’ll be on the hook for the balance, plus a huge amount of interest. Not paying off your balance on time hurts credit.

Debit Cards

Pros: Debit cards use funds from your checking account. Unlike credit cards, debit cards allow you to use plastic, but they don’t allow you to overspend. You can withdraw cash at your local bank or at an ATM using a debit card. They’re an efficient and simple form of payment.

Cons: Debit cards don’t help you build any credit. They also typically have less fraud protection than credit cards, which could be problematic if your card is lost or stolen.

Checks

Pros: Checks can be used to pay anyone from your checking account. If you don’t have sufficient cash, you can pay anyone who doesn’t accept plastic forms of payment. Checks are a great way to give money as a gift. They’re also better for record keeping, as the bank will automatically provide a proof of payment.

Cons: Checks take time to fill out. They provide the receiver with more information than they need — such as some of your bank account details, your name, and home address.

Cash

Pros: You can make nearly every in-person purchase with cash. For everything from the babysitter to your local grocery store, cash is an easy form of payment. Many small businesses prefer to accept cash, as well. In fact, you can often negotiate for a better price by paying in cash.

Cons: Cash doesn’t carry your name, so there’s no way to get your money back if it’s lost or stolen. There are no rewards for using cash, and it can’t be used to make purchases online. Some stores may also decide not to accept large bills due to potential for fraud. Though it’s an outdated method of payment, we’re probably still centuries away from cash becoming extinct.

What’s Best for You?

My wife and I mostly rely on our credit card, but we still use a combination of other methods. Rent needs to be paid with a check every month, and cash is easier for certain purchases.

What’s your preferred method of payment? Is there anyone out there who gets by with only one method?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Aram Durphy November 21, 2012 at 8:28 am

I really recommend credit cards as part of a well thought out budget; as long as you know what you’re spending each month, and you know you can pay that balance in full. The benefits to your credit score and the rewards programs savings make this an excellent choice.

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James November 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm

One thing about cash, people tend to be stingier with their money when they are paying cash, so its often better to carry cash and leave your cards at home because you’ll be more frugal with your money.

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Randall Williams November 30, 2012 at 11:55 am

Would the author please let us know what credit card gives him 2.5% of pruchases back? Thank you.

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Louise November 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I think the best is the debit card because it will not make you be on any kind of debt situation paying interest every month. But it is true that for shopping online the most comfortable method of payment is credit card or paypal.

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Henry January 29, 2013 at 4:38 am

For large purchases, credit gives you protection against fraud and, if payments are made on time, helps build your credit rating. The downside is that it is easy to pile up debt and credit card companies are more than happy to raise your interest rate. Pay off as much of your balance as possible every month, (preferably, the entire balance).
For smaller purchases, debit gives you more flexibility. The downside is that it is easy to use and allow you to go through your available funds much quicker than you might realize. Keep track in your head how much money you have available. I’ve seen folks blow through their savings at an alarming rate by just whipping out the debit card as if it were magic.
Cash is Cash. A dollar is always worth a dollar, (at face value at least). The downside is that you need to have enough with you for the transaction.

I will agree solidly with Louise that Paypal or another secured third-party payment system is the safest way to handle internet purchases. Credit cards come in second.

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