Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Week of Credit-Free Transactions

I’ve gone for a week now without using my credit card. Paying for a week of routine transactions in cash didn’t pose any special challenges. My biggest concern was the three minutes it can take to pay for gasoline inside at the cash register. That adds up to about two hours a year and might be reason enough to have some kind of payment card, at least for gasoline. I also had to estimate my gasoline purchase so I could pay for it in advance. The first time I tried this, I was a little over; the second time, under. I suppose I’ll get better with practice.

Economics journalist Suzanne Garland, who is joining me in this credit-free experiment, reports that she used her credit card just once, to buy gasoline for a borrowed car after her car broke down. She may be doing so again — she needs to fit a trip to the bank into her schedule to get more cash, but that may not come until after her car is repaired.

I have gone through most of my cash myself, and will need to get more cash than I’m used to when I take my next pay check to the bank.

I took a day at the beach, in between the stormy weather that otherwise washed out the week. It struck me that I’ve always paid for everything at the beach in cash. So nothing changed there.

On the drive to the beach, though, I paid tolls using EZ-Pass, an RFID payment mechanism which I fund automatically with a credit card account. It’s another example of the recurring online payments that can’t be done in cash. To work efficiently, they have to have some kind of electronic payment. I could have paid tolls in cash, but that would have added about five minutes to my trip. The same as at the gas pump, those minutes add up.