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5 Ways Credit Cards Could Be Messing Up Your Life

Normally, when we think of credit cards, we think of convenience. While we might think that they can lead to debt [3] if not used responsibly, many of us mostly see them a financial tool.

With credit cards, it’s possible to earn rewards [4], as well as easily make payments without the need to carry cash around. But are credit cards too¬†convenient? And could their use actually cause more damage than good?

Here are 5 ways that credit cards could actually be leading to a worse quality of life:

1. You Spend More with Plastic

You are willing to spend more when you use a credit card. A study published in 2008 [5] indicates that consumers are willing to spend more when they used credit, as opposed to use cash. Using a credit card puts off some of the “pain” associated with using cash. Cash creates a barrier to spending [6]. Additionally, a study by Dun & Bradstreet quantified how much more consumers are willing to spend when they swipe the card. The damage? You are willing to spend 12% to 18% more with a credit card. Purchases are bigger, and you are willing to pay a higher price without negotiation when you are using credit.

2. Credit Cards Foster Impatience

Credit cards make it easier to receive instant gratification [7]. Indeed, as a society we are becoming increasingly reluctant to wait for the things we want because a credit card makes it easy to get something now. Studies have long shown that consumers prefer instant gratification [8] to waiting, and there are even indications that the most impatient among us have lower credit scores [9].

The more you use your credit card, the likelier you are to become impatient when you have to wait for something — whether it’s a purchase or whether it’s waiting in line at the DMV.

3. The Way You Spend with Credit Cards Can Make You Unhappy

On top of all of this, the way you spend with credit cards could be causing problems. One of the ways that money can buy happiness [10] is when you spend it on others. However, many of us don’t use our credit cards to spend on others. Instead, credit card purchases are often made for convenience and instant gratification. As a result, you can end up in debt, paying high interest rates, for something that loses its charm within a few months. Almost all of the ways that studies say spending can make you happy [11] are thwarted by the way we generally use credit cards.

4. The Wealth Gap is Growing Because of Credit Cards

Not only can credit cards mess up your life as an individual, but the widespread use of credit cards also contributes to the growing wealth gap. The middle class [12] seems to be shrinking, and a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston [13] indicates that part of the problem is that credit cards allow low income and middle class families to spend more than they earn quite easily, creating a situation where they are downwardly mobile in terms of wealth.

5. Credit Cards Contribute to Unhealthy Behaviors

Believe it or not, but credit card use might be making you unhealthy. Think about whether or not you are eating healthy meals [14]. If you’re not, and if your waistline is starting to show it, part of the problem could be credit cards. A recent study [15] found that those who planned to pay with credit filled up their shopping carts with more unhealthy foods than those who planned to pay with cash. Using credit cards weakens impulse control, and that can lead to poor purchasing choices.

What do you think? Are credit cards doing more harm than good?

(Photo: David Scott [16])