Why You Don’t ‘Pay’ For Anything When You Use Credit

Why You Don't 'Pay' For Anything When You Use Credit - fb

Fun with words

Few things drive me crazier than when people use the word literally incorrectly. Lord knows I take more than my share of liberties with the English language but if there is one word we should use literally wouldn’t that word be…literally. So yes, I get a little vexed when someone says something like “Man, I got so mad yesterday my head literally exploded.” Because no, it did not literally explode. If it did, that would be a bit messy.

Another place I feel we could all benefit from being a bit more literal is when we talk about how we use our credit cards. Ask yourself this, why do we all say that we pay when we use our credit cards? As in, “Buddy paid for dinner last night with his credit card.” “Buddy Lou paid for the gas in her car this morning with her credit card.” You know what? When you use your credit card, you’re not paying for anything. The credit card company is paying on your behalf but what you’re doing is more literally called borrowing. You are now in debt and if you don’t pay, in full, by a very specific date that debt is going to become very expensive.

So here’s something we can all do to help us keep our credit card usage under control. Let’s be more literal. Let’s stop using the word pay, in all its iterations, (pay, paying, paid) when we use our credit cards and start using the more correct word, borrow (borrowed, borrowing).

It sounds easy but imagine you’re out for dinner with friends and when the server brings the cheque he says “Will you be paying by credit card?” would you actually say “No, I’m borrowing the money for my meal from a credit card company”. Because if you use your credit card, that’s exactly what you are doing. (By the way, a better answer would be to say you are paying with cash.) When your best friend says that he’s paying for his new stainless steel barbeque with his credit card, would you correct him and tell him that he’s not actually paying, he’s borrowing? It could make for an interesting (and hopefully eye-opening) conversation.

I think it would be cool if retailers got in on the action too. Imagine if you bought a big screen TV at one of the big box stores and when you went to the cashier, they said something along the lines of “Good afternoon. Will you be paying for your television with cash / debit or will you be borrowing money with your credit card?” That would be awesome! And honest! I’m betting credit card usage in that store would drop dramatically.

It’s fun to play semantics with credit card usage but there’s nothing fun at all about credit card debt. Being honest with ourselves about what we are really doing whenever we use our credit cards is one of the things we can do to help avoid that debt. Literally.

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