How To Live Without A Credit Card

By: Janet |

Last month, my credit card issuer canceled my credit card. Since I am living abroad, I basically had no other option but to only use cash going forward. I guess I had to quickly learn how to live without a credit card.

At first, I was horrified at the idea of not having a credit card. Having a credit card is so convenient for making online purchases and automating payments. How was I going to live without my dear CC?

What happened when I stopped using my credit card

I am not someone who carries a lot of cash around. Before moving abroad, I was basically living a cashless lifestyle. Getting used to carrying cash with me took some getting used to.

After a few weeks of living without a credit card, I noticed some big, mainly positive, changes to my shopping and spending habits:

1. I stopped shopping online

This is a no-brainer. If I don’t have a credit card, then how can I make online purchases, right? I basically cut out all the time that I would have normally spent shopping online.

By cutting out my credit card, I saved myself both time and money.

2. I paid closer attention to my spendings

Since I was making most of my purchases by cash, I was generally more aware of all my spendings.

For example, if I had 100 bucks in my wallet and the next day I noticed that I only had 10 bucks left, then I’d automatically stop to think about where all that money went.

With a credit card, this would never have happened.

3. I made cheaper purchases

I keep a daily limit of the amount of cash I bring with me to avoid making expensive purchases. Whenever I am tempted to buy something expensive and out-of-budget, I actually have to walk away because I don’t have enough cash on hand. How genius is that? Previously, I would have just put it on my credit card and called it a day.

For instance, if I go to the grocery store with 50 bucks in hand, then I will make sure that everything I buy is under 50 bucks. If I see a yummy-looking red velvet cake, I will skip it because I know it wouldn’t be within my budget. I need the rest of my cash for essential items like fruits and vegetables.

Is life without a credit card really that wonderful?

Now I am beginning to sound as if I love my life without credit cards. That is not entirely true. Although I love the fact that I am saving money, there are also many cons to not having a credit card:

1. Not having a credit card is a huge inconvenience

It is super inconvenient to not be able to make my purchases online. I would say that besides food & groceries, 100% of my purchases were made online. Shopping online is easy because I don’t have to leave my bed and there is a lot more variety on the Internet.

Also, it can get pretty inconvenient and tiring to search for an ATM when I don’t have the right amount of cash on hand.

2. I had to miss out on “last-minute deals” or “limited-time offers”

What stinks is missing out on the great last-minute deals or limited-time offers that I find online.

I found a very cheap flight error showing Geneva-Toronto for $300 (less than half of the regular fare). I thought it would be a great time to buy a ticket to visit my family and I was tempted to buy it. When I clicked “purchase,” I realized that I didn’t have a credit card. Guess who is NOT visiting Toronto any time soon?

3. Not earning points for my spendings feels wrong

I am a huge believer of putting everything on credit to accumulate cash back and travel rewards. That is part of the reason I was able to travel to over 40 countries. By paying for everything in cash, I can no longer take advantage of these rewards.

4. I was not able to invest in my blog

I just launched my blog this month and the expenses keep adding up. For example, I would love to purchase a premium WordPress theme for my blog or enroll in more educational courses. Of course, without a credit card, I basically can’t put any money back into my blog.

5. Not being able to build my credit score

Having a credit card and using it effectively can help build your credit score, which comes in handy when you’re applying for a loan or mortgage. By mostly paying with cash, you won’t be able to prove your “creditworthiness.”

Tips on living a cash-only life

If you’re inspired by me and want to try living a cash-only life, here are some tips I have for you:

1. Limit the amount of times you withdraw cash

I recommend withdrawing cash only on certain days of the week. For me, this is at the start of the week. On Monday, I withdraw enough cash that I estimate would get me through to the following week.

Another idea would be to withdraw cash only on days when you get paid. That way, you know that you are not spending more money than you currently have!

I try to avoid making cash withdrawals during the week to avoid spending more than budgeted. This also saves money on ATM charges.

2. Keep track of how much cash you have at the end of each day

What I like to do is look at how much cash I have on me at the end of each day to get a better idea of how much I’m spending. It is so easy to spend a lot of cash without realizing it.

3. Don’t take more cash with you than you need

Take only enough cash for the amount of money you plan on spending. Be reasonable with your estimates. I usually carry around 50 bucks with me.

4. Ask friends/family when you need to make a credit card purchase

If you absolutely need to make a credit card purchase, I would recommend asking a trusted friend or family member to make the purchase for you, and then paying them back in cash.

If the expense is absolutely silly (i.e. overpriced or useless), then they will likely make a remark or even try to talk you out of it. On the other hand, if the expense is absolutely necessary, then they will most likely be glad to help you out.

Will I go back to using credit cards again?

That’s a great question. For the moment, I have gotten used to not having a credit card. But I think that once my blog grows more, I will definitely need a credit card to be able to pay for some services online.

Further, when travelling, I think it’s always a good idea to have a credit card on hand. Most hotels won’t even let you reserve a room without one!

Key take-aways

My credit card was cancelled last month and I have been living a cash-only life since. Learning how to live without a credit card was tough but now it’s become second nature (almost). I have noticed a huge reduction in my spendings after just a few weeks. Although this is great for my wallet, not having a credit card is often inconvenient.

Would you ever live without a credit card? What are your thoughts?

Republished with the permission of

5 replies on “How To Live Without A Credit Card”

My wife and I have lived without a credit card for over a year now. We haven’t missed it a bit and will never go back to having one.

We’ve been amazed at how much less we spend without using credit. We were in the “we pay off our bill every month and get rewards” camp … but then discovered (see what I did there?) that we were spending quite a bit more with the card. That 2% of cash back we were getting was more than offset by the extra money we were spending.

We do have a debit card with the MasterCard logo, which we use for online shopping (which we don’t do much of anyway) and buying gas. Other than that, we use cash. We don’t care about our credit scores (we’re not planning to ever borrow money again). As for the “you need a credit card to travel” argument … nope. We’ve traveled plenty the last couple of years, and I can assure you that airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and rental car agencies all take debit. (Maybe not every last one out there — but the few that don’t are companies that don’t get our business.)

It may not work for everybody, but it has been great for us.

4. I was not able to invest in my blog

I thought that you already had a premium wordpress account – the site looks very professional already and I think that you’ve done a great job!
My site (also free) isn’t nearly half a percent as good – although I have had some bursts of creativity that allowed me to improve the design.

I also recently took out a credit card for a bit of stoozing this month. Essentially free money (if you play your cards right) but I don’t think I could go card free – sorry.

Crikey. I can’t imagine not having a credit card. The benefits are many:
* Financial – cashback/travel rewards
* Time savings – clear visibility to and management of spend – no wasting time with manual data entry or categorization. Or handling messy paper records.
* Credit History – Proper credit management is key to building up a credit score which then pays off in spades when seeking loans or needing to pass credit-related checks.
* Convenience/safety – I don’t need to worry about carrying cash around or even stashing it in the house.
* Transaction security – If a product/service is not what was promised, use the CC provider to fight for you.
* Negotiating tool – Once you know a particular merchant takes credit, some of them will offer a discount for cash if the price is ‘flexible’. (Ka-ching!)

Anyway, just another opinion.

PS: Just to be clear, I pay off each month.

No credit history can cause problems. When we moved to Canada we had no credit history in the country, although we had extensive credit history in the US. Something I never imagined would be a problem before we moved.

We could not even get cell service without credit history. We wound up having to pay cash (for a contract up front) just to get our phones to work. Fortunately, we had the cash to pay for it.

I understand that credit cards cause problems for many people and I certainly don’t advocate carrying a balance, but living without credit history can be difficult as well.

This author seems to be conflating not having a credit card with not having any type of bank card. CC free 10 years now, and with my bank card (aka debit card, I can shop online, not carry cash etc. With a debit card I can do everything a cc does except purchase with credit.

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