Have You Said "No, Thank You” to Credit Cards?

Do you, by choice, not carry (or use) a credit card at all? I would like to hear from people who have made the decision to go credit card-free. How long have you been without plastic? Why did you kiss credit cards goodbye? How has living credit card-free working? Has it created any problems?

The reason I ask is I’m thinking of stopping carrying credit cards at all in 2009. Despite the old debt I racked up and am still paying, I’ve been good about not going into any new debt for some time, but I also have found that I don’t even like being in short term debt (i.e., owing a credit card company every month for last months purchases). I’m finding I’d rather just pay cash or with my debit card.

The transition isn’t as easy as it seems. I have recurring charges set up to credit cards that I’ll have to change, and of course I have to endure the gap in which I pay the credit card bill for last month’s purchases in addition to all of this month’s purchases in cash.

So please let me know if you live credit card-free and what it’s like!

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


  1. I am not there yet, but on my way. I am down to my last credit card, and as soon as it’s paid it off I will get rid of credit cards entirely. I read an article somewhere about how people shouldn’t use the excuse “credit cards are necessary in case of an emergency.” Instead we should set up an emergency bank account with a debit card. When was the last time you had a real emergency, versus the last time you frivolously used your credit card because you ran out of money until your next paycheck? Get ahead by getting out of the red.
    -Dan Malone-

  2. We still use our credit cards for everything. However we are responsible enough to pay off the credit cards when the bills arrive so no monthly finance fees. If you use the credit card responsibly it can be a nice tool. For example we have one that gives us cash back on every purchase (5% for gas and 1% for everything else) and one that earns us points for airline miles. If we are disciplined enough not to buy things we can’t afford then why wouldn’t we take advantage of these cards rewards?

  3. Yeah, Daniel, I would never tell people who consistently use credit cards responsibly consistently to forgo rewards. That 1%-5% can add up to hundreds a year easily so why not? I guess, personally, I wasn’t responsible with credit cards once and I wonder if the safest way to ensure I don’t get into trouble again is to remove them from the equation. I’m curious to see if this is practical.

    Dan, I agree that with a bit of planning and an emergency fund, we shouldn’t really need credit cards for emergencies. I would miss the convenience of using them for things like rental cars and hotels where they use deposits, or for things I buy and am reimbursed for at work.

  4. Hi David – I’ve not had any credit cards since Summer of 2004 and have not missed them one bit. My friends were all mortified when I told them I didn’t have cards any more (I got the usual questions – what about an emergency, what about travel, etc etc)…..I’ve got an emergency fund built up and have not had any problems using a debit card when I reserve rental cars, etc for traveling (don’t travel that much anyway to be honest).

    In hindsight I’ve realized that the friends who questioned my decision the most are the ones who seem to have the most problems with their own credit.

    I can’t tell you how nice it is to not be worried that my interest rate will be raised or that a payment is due in the next few days. Wonderful feeling! Glenn

  5. The only good reason not to use credit cards is if you don’t feel that you’re responsible enough to avoid getting into debt. As long as the checking account balance is greater than credit card balance I can’t think of a reason not to take that 2%+ cashback currently offered by credit card programs.

  6. While having those cashback rewards, airline miles, etc. are nice, the bottom line is those who use credit cards spend more on average than those who use cash/debit card. It is something like 15+ percent more. And that makes sense. Think about it, if you have $100 in your debit account or in your pocket, and you go to the grocery store, you cannot spend more than $100. However, if you have a credit card with $1,000 on it, you would easily validate the extra purchases for over $100 and then paying it off when you get your next paycheck. But did you really need that extra stuff? Sticking with cash or a debit card causes you to budget more and therefore spend less, or at the very least, wiser.

    So, the average credit card holder spends 15% more using a credit card that gives them 1-5% back. Who’s really winning? Sure, you may have the money to pay the credit card off every month, but is the extra spending needed? What would you do with that extra 10%?

    Not using a credit card, and forcing yourself to budget better leaves you with more money at the end of the month, so that you don’t need the credit card to make up the difference between the outgoing and incoming money. When you know where every dollar is going, you find that those “emergencies” are rare because it’s not an emergency when you have the money to cover it.

    Living without a credit card is surprisingly easy. The hardest part is getting the weird looks from your friends when they hear you say you don’t have one. I use a Visa debit card and it is accepted everywhere. Hotels, rental places, etc. I have never needed a credit card for anything I have done since being credit card free for a year. I enjoy it much more than I ever did using a credit card. I am never paying now for something I forgot I bought 3 weeks (or longer) ago. And by having no chance to carry over any debt, I never pay more than the retial price for something!

    Definitely get rid of the plastic.

  7. I am 29 years old and I’ve never had a credit card.

    Ever since high school I’ve known that the entire credit industry is a scam, that interest rates and fees are a shell game, and that once you fall just a little bit behind, it can be impossible to catch up. I’ve seen friends get into serious trouble with cards, and think they could solve the problems with more cards. I’ve always been perfectly happy without a card, and only use my debit card for online/phone purchases. Phone bills, insurance, etc comes directly out of my account.

    Here’s the rub… I’m in the process of trying to buy my first house, and while I have managed to save $20,000 for a down payment, I can’t get a loan because I have no credit score. For the last month, I’ve been running around and racking my brain trying to figure out how to get credit.

    The credit market in the US is CLOSED! No one seems to understand this. The card issuers are up on capitol hill screaming and threatening and begging to continue the shell game, and meanwhile they’re purging their books, lowering limits and raising interest rates, and issuing a hell of a lot less cards. You can’t get a new card in 2009 without PERFECT credit. People are giving me well-meant advice, which would have been good back in ’05, but which is not relevant today. Things like “get a store card or a gas card.” Store cards are extinct. Done. They bit the dust. Stores like best buy and home depot have cards issued by major banks, which are not easier to get.

    I can’t even finance a piece of furniture. Its all run by Wells fargo, and requires a credit score. I’ve even been turned down for a secured card by Bank of America. Bank of America needs $34 billion to stay solvent, and when I offered them $500, they said no thanks.

    Bottom line, having no credit card bill is great, but its all set up for us to be owned by about 12 banks. You can play their game and win it (by managing your credit according to the FICO computer’s logarithm) or you can stay outside the system completely. There is no happy middle.

  8. To all of you who think its so great to go “credit card free”…you are a bunch of financially ignorant fools. If you are so disciplined to live without credit, then you should be able to set up a budget to live by, shouldnt you? Now you spend money without the cash-back benefits, which is free money essentially. Heres a hint, if the credit market is a “scam” as you like to put it, why dont you use your brilliance to “scam” them and pay balances off in full and take the cash back. If you can do the math, you would be making money and not oweing anyone a dime. Did you think of that? Lastly, good luck buying a house…hopefully your savings habits are good enought to write a check for a house, because a bank will laugh you off the premises when you apply for a loan. Lots of smart people on this blog…