Cash is king when it comes to most financial products. More than half of all American adults carry a credit card in their wallet, and almost one-third carry several. It’s time to drop the excuse that spending money with a plastic card is better than spending it in real cash, a new study finds.

Cash is best for paying bills

Despite one study that found people spend a lot of money spending with credit cards compared to cash, most consumers spend more than $1,000 a year in credit card fees, and don’t typically pay down their balance in full each month. They are better off spending only a few hundred dollars a month in cash, the new report by Boston College’s Center for the Study of Financial Innovation finds. The study also found that consumers tend to overestimate the percentage of money they will spend with plastic and underestimate how much money they will pay in interest fees.

It’s time to ditch excuses

Cash is especially preferable for paying bills because it’s cheaper and easier to carry as a personal item than a credit card, its convenience aside. For example, 28 percent of the adults surveyed in the study said they would leave town without having paid off their electric bill, but only 3 percent of them would leave without paying for gas. With a plastic card, we would likely ignore the bill, or wait until we have enough money to pay the entire balance on a stretch of bad gas prices.

Financial tools that will keep you honest

Also included in the study, most consumers overestimate how much money they will spend with credit cards and underestimate how much they’ll pay in interest. When it comes to paying bills, big-ticket items like mortgages, cars and other investments, consumers are more honest with their plastic.

The biggest concern about credit cards

Despite out-and-out recommendations to hold on to cash, credit cards provide a number of benefits that often outweigh the drawbacks: the ability to compare products, to buy things that are immediately wanted, to be confident they are not spending more than they should be.

When in doubt, always carry cash

Despite research suggesting credit cards have a good reputation, a number of studies from across the U.S. show that they can be prone to misuse, leading to financial trouble. One study, for example, found that despite all their promises, many plastic cards are used for purchases they don’t make, sending you into a debt spiral.

Is there any way to avoid your plastic payments?

While there are online tools to help those in debt reduce their payment patterns, most people just need to know that spending with plastic doesn’t always make sense. It’s time to treat credit cards like cash — a tool that can have its advantages, but can also have its disadvantages, similar to any other financial product.

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