Weekly Roundup: Credit Card Use Stings Edition

Now that we have paid off a number of debts, including most recently our car, we have decided to use one of our two remaining credit cards as a dedicated gas card. It has a decent rebate program on gasoline purchases, but we are really using it for convenience and will pay it off when the bill arrives.

My wife was the first to use the card at a local gas station, and she later told me that she did not like the feeling she got using the credit card. Now keep in mind that we have not charged anything in over a year, but have been swiping our debit card when cash was not convenient.  Frankly, I was a little surprised to hear her tell me that using the credit card “stung a little.” Neither of us had a problem swiping it before last year!

So now we are in the process of weighing whether or not 5% back on gasoline is worth normalizing the use of credit cards again. Perhaps we’d be better off to stick with the debit card. Or perhaps this is a good time to show debt who’s boss, and prove that we can control the spending on credit cards. We’re still undecided, but I’ll keep you posted.

The Frugal Roundup

The Myth of the Parent that NEEDS to Work.  A thoughtful response to the notion that two parents need to work to get by. Often times the second parent wants to work, and that’s fine, but be honest about the intentions rather than blaming it on financial necessity. (@Brip Blap)

An Introduction to Money Market Accounts. Money market accounts are like forgotten gems in the world of personal finance. For a long time, no MMA could touch the rates on other types of savings account (particularly online savings). However, as J.D. explains, in a few occasions they do offer higher rates, and can be a great place to park short-term cash. (@Get Rich Slowly)

Your Home is Not an Investment – Don’t Treat It Like One. I think many of us have come to this realization over the last several months, but the question is, will the lessons last. Jeremy makes several good points in this post regarding the true costs of home ownership compared to the investment potential. (@Generation X Finance)

Ten Great Ways to Make Powerful Visual Reminders of Your Personal Finance (and Other) Goals. I’ve used a number of visual reminders over the years.  From huge wall charts tracking our debt balance to a list of classes I needed to take to complete my undergraduate degree after returning to school. (@The Simple Dollar)

Simplify Your Life By Bartering for What You Need. Bartering is one of those frugal skills I really should brush up on. The idea of trading an item with someone else so that the transaction is mutually beneficial to both parties is an exciting idea to me. Unfortunately, it is something I rarely practice in my world, but I’ll work on it. (@On Simplicity)

What To Expect in Traffic Court. First-hand account of a day in traffic court. While I hope to never find myself in traffic court again, these tips will certainly be helpful if I do. Yes, I spent a little time there as a teenager for speeding and excessive window tint – I was a real rebel! (@Bargaineering)

How to Make Today Memorable. The last few weeks have been insanely busy at my full time job. When that happens I feel like the days are simply sliding by without me having much to say about the outcome. This article provides some great ways to generate key moments throughout your day so they stand out as remarkable. (@Marc and Angel)

Carnival of Pecuniary Delights.  An outstanding collection of high-quality personal finance posts (and not just because mine was selected as an editor’s pick). (@CreditCards.com)


  1. For 5% I’d say show debt who’s boss. Think of it as a stamp card with 19 slots; when you fill up the card, you’re 20th fillup is free.

    Unlike a luxury item where the card might encourage you to buy more, this is gasoline, which you likely use at a steady rate.

    Speaking from personal experience: limit the card to gas, just to be safe. I have a credit card I only use for groceries these days, and it’s paid off automatically from my bank account. Like a debit card that kicks back cash.

  2. I agree with Alex…show debt who’s the boss!

    That’s exactly what my wife and I are doing. And when you can tell everone you pay off your credit card each month, then you know you have reversed the role of who’s the boss.

    Our area has a gas station that rewards points for using their gas station credit card, and we take full advantage of this. Plus, we automatically get a 4% discount with a gift card they have as well. Example: I put $100 on the gift card (charging it with their credit card) and they charge me $96. That’s 4 cents for every dollar. If gas is $2.50, I save 10 cents a gallon automatically!

    In the past year and a half, we have received over $700 in cash back…not flyer miles or whatever else is out there…CASH! And of course, we use it to buy more gas. 🙂
    They key of course…pay the bill off each month!!!

    Good luck!

  3. Why don’t you open another Debit card account and put around $500.00 in it. Use this card only for gas and then reimburse your “gas fund” each payday? You could even figure out your gas expense and have an average amount deposited automatically to your account.

  4. What about the extra % of money that it costs every time you use a credit card?

    This cost is not directly charged to you, but the prices at gas stations have inflated since the use of credit/debit cards skyrocketed. Think about it… they have to raise rates to compensate for the percentage of EVERY transaction taken by the credit banks.

    So What’s The Answer?

    Should we stop using debit cards & credit cards all together to “make a statement”? Or should we just accept the fact that we cannot change these facts & try to take advantage of the system where we can… like getting 5% cash back?

    If we choose the latter, remember that though we are making a little money, we are also contributing to the income of the credit banks at the same time because we are using their cards for every transaction.

    Just some food for thought…

  5. I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover & FPU.

    My biggest concern is that if I promote, maybe even facilitate a FPU class, but I still have and use a credit card, is that hypocritical?

    Should be get rid of it out of principle?

    We did have a unexpected opportunity where using the card was “necessary”. We had money saved for buying furniture. It was in an ING savings account. Then we happened upon an Ashley Furniture that was closing and they had brought in an auction company for the last 3 days. We were able to get a complete king bedroom suit for more than 75% off the retail price. The catch – it had to be paid for immediately and our money was in ING, 3 day transfer away. If we had known about the auction in advance I would have made sure the money was in our checking account. So the alternative – we used the card and then transfered the money and paid it off within the week.

  6. If we want to be financial “puritans” we probably should ditch using the cards and pay cash, even and especially for gas since it’s ongoing and isn’t a major expense (at least not since the summer of 08 😉 )

    But another factor is if you live in area where all gas stations are self-sevice, using a card of some sort is a good idea because it keeps you from having to go into the store to pay cash, potentially standing in line to do so while your car is sitting unattended. We wait in line so often in so many places, if we can avoid it when buying gas, all the better. 5% cash back is just a sweetener.

    Like Matt (#5), as a rule, I’m against using credit cards on general principal. But gas is one of those exceptions, in some cases.

  7. @Kosmo – that’s understandable. Just don’t forget that because they are paying more… you are paying more. The costs are passed on to you & me. 😉

  8. I’d like to comment on the article about the “myth” of the parent that needs to work. I was appalled by the title ’cause it struck me as very judgmental. This was unfortunately confirmed in the author’s later comment in a reply, “…But I still think that any time you choose two incomes over one you are making a choice for money over staying home… ” [bripblap]

    There are two different issues being discussed here. One is both spouses working, the other is whether it’s truly necessary or not.

    Regarding women working, I have a Master’s in Statistics and have been a stay at home Mom for almost four years and have three young children. I have heard both praise and criticism for my choice then to stay home, and my need now to return to work.

    You may notice I said my “need” now to return. Regarding necessity, I am only one case, but I’m sure there are many more. I am looking for work, trying to find something that will help while not hurting Mom/Family time too much. We barely squeak by on one salary, but have to be late on a bill sometimes to do so. We have no emergency fund, a 10-year old truck (no other vehicle), don’t eat out, and rent our home. We have cut back as far as we can. We _do_ need a second income and it’s not because of excess spending, or any other luxury. I wish people would not make global statements and judgements against people for whom you may or may not know all of their circumstances.

  9. My apologies. In the last statement of my comment above, I accidentally said, “… you may or may not…”. I meant to say, “… they may or may not…”. You certainly have made no such global statement.


  10. Just enter every gas transaction into your checking account and you’ll have the cash in your account when the bill arrives. Also, go to the bank card’s website and set up ‘autopay’. You no longer have to write the check each month. The credit card statement also is an easy way to see how much gas you’re using/need to budget for each month.

  11. 5% is a good rebate, so I say give the credit cards a try. If you start to get the least bit out of control with it, then stop.

    I use credit cards for everything I can for the purposes of getting the rewards. I’ve never carried a balance, so the rewards are a total boon.