In this day and age, there are many ways to complete your day-to-day transactions. You’ve got cash, debit cards, credit cards, instant pay apps, and sometimes you may even use the old school paper check payment. But how do you know when it’s appropriate to use one payment method over the other?

If you’ve ever wondered to yourself, “Should I pay with cash or card?”, we’re here to help clear up the cash vs. card confusion. In this post, we’re discussing what factors you should consider when you’re making a purchase and how you can ultimately decide which payment method is best.

When to use cards

There are many perks to using a debit or credit card to make a purchase. First off, you can’t beat the convenience of carrying a slender piece of plastic around rather than a wad of cash and quarters. As an added bonus, there are many rewards programs that come with credit card spending—cash-back on this, discounts on that, airline miles, etc. If you use it properly, your credit card can end up making you money as you spend it in addition to helping you build a strong credit score.

But of course, along with the positives of using credit cards, there are a few drawbacks. Card security has definitely improved over the years, thanks in part to that little chip you more than likely use when you pull out your credit or debit card to make a purchase. They’re called EMV cards. When you buy something with an EMV card, the electronic chip generates a unique code affiliated with the unique purchase and after it’s used, it can’t be used again. This addition has helped to improve card safety, but card fraud still happens online and in brick and mortar locations.

Which brings us to the question you’re here for in the first place—when should I use cash instead of my card?

Since card fraud still happens, you should use your card only when you feel confident about the vendor you’re purchasing from. Here’s what to look for:


  • Don’t use your card if you notice that the reader looks like it’s been tampered with or feels loose.
  • Do confirm the reputation of the vendor online. You can do this by reading customer reviews and looking for verified security badges.
  • Don’t shop on public Wifi using your debit or credit card.


Whenever you’re making any purchase with your debit or credit card, you should consider the safety of the transaction first. Using these precautions can help protect your money in the event that your account information is endangered.

Keep in mind, there are some circumstances where using a credit card instead of a debit card may make the most sense if you’re not paying in cash. When paying for travel expenses, for example, you might be better off using your credit card since your credit card company may offer a certain level of insurance on your transactions. To learn more, read our post on when to use your credit card instead of your debit card.

When to use cash

Now that you know when to use your card, it will be easier to learn when you should use cash instead. The benefits of using cash include the fact that you can avoid interest charges and that your financial data is protected against a potential security breach.

This means you should carefully consider whether or not you feel comfortable making a card transaction. If you feel unsafe about the card reader or the business legitimacy, you might think about using cash instead. In addition, cash payments can help you save on transaction fees that are often affiliated with credit and debit cards. If you travel abroad, it’s a good idea to carry some cash in that country’s currency—especially if your card has high foreign transaction fees.


Card payments have become pretty commonplace for consumers, but there are certain situations when you should think twice about swiping your plastic. Use these tips as a guide to help you determine when to use cash and when to use your card.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *