By Russ and Tiña De Maris
In a recent reader poll we asked: “On routine store purchases of $10 to $20 how do you most often pay?” Nearly 2,500 of you responded – and a pretty lopsided majority of more than 1,110 of you (47 percent) said, “With a credit card.”
That “plastic purchase” method surprised at least one reader. They work as a cashier in a convenience store and remarked, “It always amazes me how many people will pull out a credit card to pay for a 99 cent drink.” We confess, being members of the 47 percent bracket, dropping a credit card for a $12 meal at a fast food joint, or even 99 cents for a snack at the Quigly-Que, is just our own routine.
We didn’t get any feedback as to why the majority of readers use the credit card as first choice (incidentally, the second-most-preferred payment method was via debit card, with 28 percent choosing this method). Nevertheless, credit card use for small purchases among RVers actually beats use by Americans in general. A survey by CreditCards.com finds only 17 percent of buyers use credit cards for small purchases, but that was up by 11 percent from their survey done last year. And another factor – they asked users about making $5 or less purchases – maybe you’re more in line with that when it comes to the low dollar sale.
But using a credit card for small purchases may actually be the smart thing to do. IF you pay off that credit card each month, and so aren’t getting nicked interest on your Big Mac and fries meal, here are some advantages of the card:
Rewards: Our “pay it off every month” card shoots us 3 percent back on restaurant and gas purchases, 5 percent on Amazon.com buys (and that’s a big push), and 1 percent on anything else. Those “cash backs” really do add up.
Return protection: Some cards back you up. Buy something and it doesn’t work out, store won’t take it back? Contact the card issuer’s customer service folks, and you may see that purchase price credited back to your account. Other fraud protection assurances are often better on a credit card than on a debit card. In these times of nasty folks in the woodwork, that’s something to think about.
Tracking: Where did the money go? Buy it with cash, lose the receipt, you’ve lost the information. Fire up your electronic device, log onto your card account, you’ll know where the money went, and when. And at the end of the year, many credit card companies provide a compilation of your purchases, broken out in expense categories.
Building credit: If you’re working on building your credit score, every purchase made, then paid off on time, works to your advantage.
Pay for my ice cream cone break with a credit card? You betcha!