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Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Stores have lots of interesting ways of telling you a chip isn't accepted. credit. PHOTO: JOANNA STERN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
I have started using a credit card for most purchases these days. I try to carry as few cards as possible, which means just one credit card, which happens to be my Costco card. Costco changed from American Express to VISA this year, which is what triggered the change in my buying habits. American Express is great if you are spending thousands of dollars on hotels, airline tickets and car rentals. Not so good for buying cheeseburgers (mmmm, cheeseburgers). So when I was carrying an American Express card, I was using cash for all the small stuff, and that worked pretty well. I'd go to the bank once a month and get a wad of cash and disperse it into the community five or ten dollars at a time. The big benefit was not having to keep track of all these chickenshit transactions. I bought, I paid for it, the money is gone, we're done.
     The downside was hauling out the wallet to get the cash, stuffing the change and receipt back in and then stuffing it back in my pocket. Part of the problem might have been that at least one of my pairs of shorts has Velcro closures on the the hip pockets, which might be great for mountaineering, but around town they are just kind of a nuisance. (No, I don't go mountaineering. I get out of breath climbing a couple of flights of stairs. While I have no doubt that I could climb Mt. Everest if I wanted to, having to take a nap after every couple of steps might make it a practical impossibility.) So now I keep my card in my front pocket and I just carry my wallet around for ballast.
     Ran into all kinds of credit card terminals on our recent road trip to Iowa. Swipe readers were more prevalent, many of the chip readers were disabled (photo above).
   Joanna Stern has a fine story in the Wall Street Journal about the pros and cons of the various methods of paying for things. Looks like I picked exactly the wrong time to change to using a card for everything: the chip makes every transaction take twice as long. Her solution is to use a smart phone. That would be fine if they didn't cost $50 a month. I may have to go back to paying with cash.

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