money & Banking

Wed, 20 Jan, 2016Ben Squires

Surprising differences in how we use credit cards and cash

Surprising differences in how we use credit cards and cash

With more credit cards used by Kiwis than ever is definitely seems as though New Zealanders are addicted to the convenience of not having to pay with cash. But what is the impact of this on New Zealand consumer behaviour?

Since the late 1990’s researchers have been interested in understanding the psychology behind credit card use, not least because of the proliferation of debt in the consumer market and the concern of the ease with which to gains these cards (and debt) preys on vulnerable consumers.

A 1998 study conducted by George Lowenstein and his colleagues that was published in 2001 made the finding that payments with cash elicited quite a different emotional response to payments made with credit cards or any other payment methods where the actual payment is to a certain extent “delayed”. The suggestion is paying by traditional methods with cash requires a physical transaction that can be more painful than paying for something with credit, where you see a figure on the receipt but you’re not actually handing over a physical amount of money in real life.

In another experiment as part of the project, Mr Lowenstein observed that people were willing to pay much more for a particular event with credit cards than with cash, with the premium ranging anywhere between 60 and 113 per cent more, which represents quite a significant difference. 

Similar research has also found people are more likely to spend money when given $50 in cash rather than $50 in a gift voucher, they were more likely to spend a higher proportion of that in the latter rather than the former, which is again probably because of the lack of physical exchange.

So what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re looking to tighten your purse strings around the house, opting to make more purchases with cash might just be the best way to do it. By making your purchase with cash you’re statistically likely to be less likely to overspend and more mindful of the items you are actually buying, which could lead to significant savings down the track. Willpower can be hard, especially when shopping, but this is an easier way to make willpower happen.

Related links:

Why 2016 is the year everyone should ask for financial advice

Simple tips to help control your money 


Hidden benefits of living in a granny flat