Credit Card Use Linked to Weight Gain

Laura Slawny • December 12, 2014

Want to cut spending and trim your waistline? You can do both with one simple step: buy your groceries with cash.

Research finds people who pay for groceries with credit or debit cards are more likely to give into impulses and buy more junk food.

The four part study titled “How Credit Card Payments Increase Unhealthy Food Purchases: Visceral Regulation of Vices” looked into buying habits for more than 1,000 shoppers.

Researchers found when shoppers pay with plastic, they are more likely to load their carts up and more likely to buy unhealthy food.

Here’s why:

We all know junk food is bad for our health, yet seeing bags of chocolate chip cookies elicit a visceral response. We remember how good cookies taste, how happy they make us feel and that we deserve to be happy.

It’s difficult to fight that kind of reasoning! After all, it’s only a few dollars more – right?

“When all they have to do is swipe,

shoppers buy more unhealthy items.”

The Cornell University economist who led the study said shoppers who give in and buy the cookies feel a “pain of payment” if they pay with cash.

They feel the pain of handing over more bills and experience regret later on. Anticipating this pain on the next shopping trip can act as a deterrent in the cookie aisle.

However, shoppers who use a credit or debit card don’t feel “pain of payment” at the register. They don’t feel the regret.

Instead of one splurge, shoppers have several splurges, adding to our bill and our waistline.

Head researcher Manoj Thomas said he hasn’t done any follow-up work since the 2010 study. But there may be renewed interest in his work thanks to a recent marketing campaign.

I think it’s safe to say America’s spending habits haven’t changed much since in recent years. If anything, rewards points have driven us to use credit cards more frequently.

You just have to ask yourself: Are you strong enough to control your impulses, and is the risk worth the reward?

If you decide to open a new credit card, treat it like junk food — only use it in moderation.

Source: online.wsj.com. Photo source: blisstree.com.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

About the Author

Laura Slawny

Laura Slawny is an award-winning executive news producer with more than 15 years experience writing about issues that impact families all over America. Since 2012, her focus on personal finance has helped consumers in the U.S., Canada and Australia. Laura believes complex financial concepts should be easy for everyone to understand. Her work appears on multiple consumer websites, both as an author and ghost writer. She also enjoys writing about leadership and healthy living. Connect with Laura on Google+.