The Business Conundrum of Plastic (Credit Cards)

Credit and debit cards have become the new cash in America. We know that in today’s world of increasing convenience and efficiency, cash has been replaced in many ways by a piece of plastic connected either to a line of credit with a bank or a checking or savings account.

And there has been some subtle campaigning in the business world encouraging the use of credit or debit cards and de-emphasizing the use of cash.

This has a double-edged sword. On the one hand, this is great for businesses because numerous studies have shown that consumers spend more when they use plastic than when they use cash.

On the other hand, this is bad for the consumers you want in your store because as these consumers spend more with plastic, they tend to be in financial trouble more, which then means at some point they might not spend.

And here is another interesting tidbit – those who pay cash are more likely to spend cash in smaller denominations like $5 and $10 than those with $50 or $100 bills in their wallets. In other words, if two people were considering buying the same $100 item, the person with a $100 bill is less likely to buy than the person with five $20 bills. It’s the psychology of numbers – 20 is smaller than 100, so it does not seem as “painful” emotionally to part with the 20s than with the single 100.

Now think of that applied to a debit or credit card, which has no dollar value showing on it. No number is thought like a zero.

This is just a little food for thought when you are considering whether to include a barcode reader or a card-swipe machine with your point-of-sale system. While it’s great for your business’ bottom line because of the increased consumer spending with plastic, it might also help to think as a consumer with plastic and some of the risks of not paying attention to spending because of the convenience.

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