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When you should use cash

  • When you have an emergency: Cash is accepted everywhere, so have some on hand. Dave Ramsey recommends having at least $1,000 in an emergency fund.
  • When you want to limit your spending: Psychologically, we spend less money when we use cash as you can see the money leaving your hand.
  • When you want to make healthier purchases: Customers who pay with cash are less likely to make impulsive purchases.
  • When you want to have a better relationship with the things you buy: When you pay with cash, you may feel a deeper sense of connection and pride in the item you purchased.
  • When you want to make a small purchase at a small store: Every dollar you spend at a small store, they're losing two cents automatically - a cost that could eat up into their already small profits.

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When you should use credit

When you use credit cards responsibly, they can give you a lot of power. The best circumstances to use a credit card is:

  • When you're traveling, you'll get better rates for foreign exchange fees when you're traveling abroad. Travel rewards cards will also offer travel insurance.
  • When you need security, credit cards have no liability for fraudulent charges and you can cancel or freeze your card instantly.
  • When you want rewards. Most credit cards now will give you rewards for using them.
  • When you’re making charges for work because you don't have to front the money. You can get reimbursed before the bill is due.
  • When you want to avoid getting into (more) debt: Since your debit card is connected to a checking account, you theoretically only spend what is available in your account.
  • You want to pay for everyday purchases conveniently—things like gas, groceries, and coffee.
  • When you want to limit your spending, but don’t want to carry cash.
  • When you want the best of both worlds between cash and credit.

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