December 12th, 2013 by Maria Minsker

Earlier this week, I began navigating the treacherous journey that is holiday shopping. Every time I swiped my card to pay for a purchase, the cashier would ask: “Credit, or debit?” Now I know that this isn’t a new phenomenon, but one recent transaction in particular really made me think twice about my answer. I invested in a pair of Skullcandy headphones from RadioShack, only to discover that, even when adjusted as much as possible, they were too big for my head (believe me, I know that sounds ridiculous!).  I went back to RadioShack, asked for a return, swiped my card, and went on my merry way. Later that day when I logged on to review my checking account, I was surprised to see the return already credited back. With a credit card, that return might have taken roughly 5-7 business days to process, and judging by past experiences, perhaps even up to two weeks. But because I paid with my debit card, the return was almost instant.

The explanation is simple. Credit cards transactions use a bank’s funds. So, when a return is initiated, the process has to go through the bank’s system before it can be credited back, resulting in delays. Debit card transactions are connected to a checking account and use the consumer’s funds directly, meaning quicker return turnaround. This, for me, is a major debit card pro. But there’s also another, more obvious perk to using a debit card: no debt! You can’t spend money that you don’t have and debit transactions ensure that consumers stick to purchases within their means. I, for one, appreciate not having the temptation of splurging on something that costs more than I can afford. And many Americans agree.

According to the Country Financial Security Index released in November, 61 percent planned to use cash, check or debit card to pay for most of their holiday purchases. Just 29 percent said they were going to rely on credit. Their reasoning? More than half (56 percent) said they were not willing to take on any debt for their holiday shopping. As for the breakdown between men and women, the results are, dare I say it, surprising.

Released yesterday,’s 2013 Holiday Spending Survey showed that men are much more likely to use a credit card than women. Roughly 62 percent of male respondents said they will use a credit card to pay for at least some of their purchases, and just 54 percent of women said they plan to do so. About 43 percent of men claim they will use credit cards for more than half of their holiday purchases, while only 33 percent of women say the same, according to the survey.

There you have it–Americans appear to be becoming more debt-conscious and women are breaking through that “shopaholic” stereotype. Yes, I know, I’m generalizing. But it’s the holiday season! Let’s think positive!

So, what your verdict? Will that be credit, or debit?


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