fast food payment

Is Your Credit or Debit Card Making You Fat?

I’ve heard of blaming one’s weight on a lot of things, but credit and debit cards? That was a new one for me and a theory reported at, that, when considered carefully, does seem to carry a lot of weight.

fast food payment

Now that fast food, coffee shops, restaurants, Door Dash and their associated apps, accept credit and debit cards for payment, what started out to be convenient, has become ultra-convenient.

Let us not forget the vintage TV commercial that shows the fast food joint humming like a well-oiled machine at lunch-time with all the patrons merrily swiping their Visa debit cards until some rude individual has the audacity to stop the momentum by attempting to pay with … CASH! 

According to the study, there are two main reasons that credit and debit cards are making people fat. First, using debit or credit cards feels less uncomfortable than using cash. Plasic is so easy, almost mindless. But  we physically hand over cash, it feels more tangible and real compared to simply swiping a card. It’s downright painful!

The authors also conclude that the link between debt and obesity is impulse. Using plastic payment methods increases the likelihood of impulsive purchases, specifically junk food. People are more likely to grab unhealthy foods on impulse and are then more likely to go ahead and make the purchase if they’re using plastic. When paying with cash, they are more likely to rethink the unhealthy choice, and walk away.

I believe there is yet another message here—that cash is slow, old-fashioned, and not very cool. But swiping plastic is simple, fast, and thought to be impeccably safe.

Clearly, we Americans have bought into that theory in a big way. RBC Capital Markets reports that it is now a proven fact that you will spend 30% more if you pay with plastic. It’s human nature. Plastic is a stand-in for money. It’s not the real thing, so we don’t treat it with the seriousness we treat currency. A $9.50 payment with plastic is nothing compare to handing over a $10 bill. In fact, most people don’t even pay attention to the total amount when swiping plastic. And that’s where the entire consumer credit industry has duped an entire generation—and those that will follow.

It’s a pain to dig in the pocket for five or six bucks to pay for a quick lunch. But swipe a card? Easy. In fact, you don’t even have to pay that close attention to the tab. Who cares if it’s $5 or $7 when you can just swipe and go?

And according to the article, when paying with plastic, we’re more apt just to go ahead and supersize this combo—oh, and how about throwing in an apple turnover, too? After all, you don’t have to worry about the total as it magically disappears into the whole process of paying with plastic.

You know, I think this theory does have merit. And I’ll bet that it translates to grocery shopping and eating in fancy restaurants, too. And that’s where the weight thing kicks in.

Some years ago, I was the guest of one of my readers who, at the time, just happened to own one of the highest-rated restaurants in America—Tavern on the Green in New York City. Yes, lucky me. 

I’m certain that I ate more than I should have because I had this sense that I could order with abandon. I was a guest. I accepted such a generous gift with great enthusiasm!

Now, had I been the one paying the tab, I might have been a bit more, shall we say, discriminating with what I ordered. But I had the same sense of “freedom” I might have had if paying with plastic rather than cold, hard cash. It was fabulous! So carefree, I could enjoy with abandon. Such a rare opportunity to luxuriate in fine food with the freedom to not consider payment. I get it! I experienced the pleasure with not a hint of the pain of payment.

I highly recommend that my readers who are struggling to live below their means go on an all-cash diet. Oh, I can hear your objections and they do not sway me. Of course, you would not send cash in the mail. Of course you cannot make your online bill payments with cash. But let’s get real. I am talking about your daily walk around money—groceries, gasoline, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drugstore purchases, taxi fare, tolls booths, and so forth. Entities that no longer accept cash payments are few and far between, so we can drop that excuse.

Living with cash is not easy. Nor should it be! Credit and debit cards have made it far too easy to spend, and often recklessly. Living with cash means spending with intention. It requires a plan—a method for which to manage cash.

An all-cash diet has many benefits, not the least is this: It’s impossible to outspend cash! A cash lifestyle is the ticket to living below your means. Now I can promise a fringe benefit that is bound to delight: Not only will you lose debt, chances are great you’ll lose weight, too!


Question: Have you ever considered the correlation between paying with plastic and extra pounds?

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