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Always Use Cash for These 10 Purchases, Financial Experts Say

There are some things you shouldn't use your cards or phone to pay for.

Cash was once considered king. But since we're able to buy things with a card or even the tap of our phone now, many of us hardly keep any cash on hand these days. Don't empty your pockets completely, though. Financial experts advise that you carry at least a little bit of cash at all times—and they recommend buying certain things with physical money whenever possible. Read on for 10 purchases financial experts say you should always use cash for.

RELATED: Never Use Cash for These 5 Purchases, According to Financial Experts.

Purchases you might return

Wide view of the exchanges and returns line inside a Target retail store.

If you know you might end up returning something you're buying, make sure to use cash, Steven Holmes, financial expert and senior investment advisor at iCash, says.

According to Holmes, many people forgo trying things on in-store and will instead purchase two or three sizes of the same shirt or pair of pants, try them on at home, and then return the sizes they don't need.

But you will likely have to wait to get your money back if you paid with anything but cash. Most stores will automatically refund you according to the original form of payment you used for the purchase.

"It would be put back on your credit card if you used one, and the money doesn't always appear in your account for several days," Holmes explains. "But, if your receipt reflects that you made your purchase with cash, the shop will reimburse you with the same amount. Cash payments are immediately returned after the products are returned."

Vacation buys

Trendy woman looking for fancy jewelry and accessories in a flea market shop

When you're treating yourself on vacation, using cash can help you avoid some seriously shocking charges. Carter Seuthe, financial advisor and CEO of Credit Summit, says it's smarter to pay by cash when traveling because card payments could rack up additional fees for you.

"If you are in another country, you might be charged a hefty foreign transaction fee by using a credit card," he cautions.

Using cash can also prevent you from accidentally overspending while traveling, according to Seuthe.

"If you are going on a vacation and only want to spend a certain amount of money, having that in cash can also help keep you on track to meet your budget goals," he notes.

RELATED: Never Use Your Credit Card for These 6 Purchases, According to Financial Experts.

Small everyday spending

Happy couple smiling as they grocery shop.
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

Cash shouldn't only be your currency of choice when traveling, of course. You should also use this form of payment for many of your normal everyday transactions, according to Michael Collins, CFA, financial professor at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts.

"Small purchases, such as grocery items, should be made with cash," he says. "This is because the amount of money being exchanged is minimal and the use of cash deters people from impulse buying."

Using cash can help you budget more efficiently for your everyday spending, and keep you from going overboard.

"It is also important to use cash for small purchases to avoid overdraft fees associated with debit and credit cards," Collins adds.

Online secondhand shopping

Person holding cellphone with webpage of classified advertisements company Craigslist Inc. on screen with logo. Focus on center of phone display. Unmodified photo.

Online marketplaces like Facebook or Craigslist can be a great way for people to save on expensive products by buying them secondhand from someone else. But Jake Hill, financial expert and the CEO of DebtHammer, warns against using just any kind of payment method for these transactions.

"Craigslist purchases, or big purchases through any stranger, are always best with cash," Hill says. "Providing sensitive information to people you do not know is never a good idea."


Car refueling on the petrol station. Hand refilling the car with fuel. Close up view. Gasoline, diesel is getting more expensive.

The next time you get gas, reach for your cash instead of your card, advises Bill Ryze, certified financial consultant and board advisor at Fiona.

"You may have noticed that most gas stations offer a discount for cash payments," he points out.

As Forbes further explains, stations will mark prices higher for card payments to offset transactions fees from banks and credit card companies. The difference can be as high as 40 cents in some places, so "when paying for gas, it is best to pay in cash to take advantage of discounts," Ryze confirms.

Williams Bevins, a licensed financial advisor based in Franklin, Tennessee, says paying in cash can also prevent you from potentially getting scammed while fueling up.

"Criminals have used gas station pumps by equipping them with malicious devices known as 'skimmers' that may be used to steal your credit card information without you even knowing," Bevins cautions.

RELATED: 4 Times You Should Always Tip in Cash, Etiquette Experts Say.

Home services

Plumber man, technician and clipboard document for pipeline, home renovation and quality assurance notes. Handyman, plumbing service and checklist in house for building, engineering and inspection

Whether you're having electrical work done in your home or getting your lawn cut, cash is often the preferred payment method for home services, according to Shinobu Hindert, certified financial planner and author of Investing Is Your Superpower.

"Many of these service providers are small businesses and this simplifies the transactions," she explains.

Not only that, but using cash could also end up saving you money in the long run.

"Discuss this with your service provider to see if they offer discounts for paying in cash to help them avoid fees associated with cards or payment services," Hindert advises.

Eating out

Smiling young waiter taking orders from a diverse group of customers sitting together at a restaurant table

Many people tend to treat themselves a little too much while eating out. And they don't always realize it.

"When it comes to ordering food in a restaurant, people often overlook the prices and end up ordering way above their pay range," Ethan Keller, president of the international network of legal and financial advisors Dominion, shares.

If you eat out a lot, you may increase your credit card debt and ruin your credit score too, Keller warns.

"You can avoid this problem by using cash when eating out instead," he says. "Cash payment eliminates the high surcharge added with credit card payments and ensures mindful spending."


Paying the bill at a dinner. Dollar tip. $ 40 as a restaurant bill

Even if you're not willing to go as far as paying for your entire meal in cash, it's still a good idea to give gratuity that way.

"When you tip with cash it guarantees that the full amount goes directly to the service provider without any deductions," personal finance expert and influencer Erika Kullberg explains. "Some businesses pool digital tips or process them in ways that delay the worker's access to the funds. Cash tips put the money directly into the recipient's pocket."

RELATED: Server Pleads With Customers to Always Tip in Cash: "We Don't Get Instant Money."

Charitable donations

Make a Donation Helping Hands Charity Concept

Using cash when making charitable donations also "helps you ensure that your entire contribution goes towards the intended purpose," according to Joe Chappius, a financial planning expert with over a decade of industry experience.

"That's because cash eliminates any potential transaction fees," he explains. "Plus, there's a personal touch when you hand over cash for a tip or donation—it feels more immediate and tangible. In the end, it provides a sense of connection and goodwill."

Vending machine purchases

Close up view of woman's finger pushing number button on keyboard of snack vending machine. Self-used technology and consumption concept

It's easy to swipe your card at a vending machine without thinking twice whenever you need a quick snack or drink. But Eric Croak, accredited wealth management advisor and president of wealth management firm Croak Capital, actually warns against this.

"Using a credit card for vending machine purchases can obscure the real cost of items and potentially lead to overspending due to reduced transparency," she says.

Some machines also "add a surcharge for credit card use," according to Croak—which you may not realize if you don't take the time to read the fine print. So, to be safe, just stick to cash when grabbing your diet soda.

This story has been updated to include additional entries, fact-checking, and copy-editing.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date financial information from top experts and the latest news and research, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the money you're spending, saving, or investing, always consult your financial advisor directly.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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