17 Things You Should Only Pay for in Cash

While it’s usually advised that you pay for most things on a credit card, there are still some things you should only pay for in cash. This may be anything with a lower cost or even a way to reduce credit fees. Here are 17 things you should only pay for in cash.

College Tuition

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By paying for college tuition with cash, you can avoid added fees. For example, Go Banking Rates writes, “About 85% of colleges and universities now accept credit cards as payment, according to CNBC—but the privilege usually comes with a 2% to 3% surcharge.”

The Doctor’s Office

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There can be surcharges of up to 4% if you use a credit card at the doctor’s office. Paying cash means you’ll avoid any of these extra fees, especially as medical bills are expensive enough without them. It’s a proactive choice that helps to keep your medical costs as low as possible.

Government Offices

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Many states allow government offices to pass credit processing costs onto you, the consumer. If you pay with cash, then this is one way to avoid these fees. Many government offices that do charge fees include the Post Office, DMV, and courts.

The Gas Station

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Best Life writes, “Stations will mark prices higher for card payments to offset transaction fees from banks and credit card companies.” Gas stations have a visible price difference between cash and credit payments. It encourages you to be budget-conscious when it comes to your fuel consumption.


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A direct ACH payment will avoid additional fees that are tied to credit card payments. If you pay by credit card to the IRS, then you’re going to incur extra processing fees. Paying in cash will help encourage fiscal responsibility during tax season and will mean you’re not paying any more tax than you need to.

Your Car

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If you’re purchasing a new car, then this should always be paid for in cash. It avoids additional interest on depreciating assets. Not only this, but paying for a car upfront gives you the opportunity to save for something special, making it feel like you’ve put in the hard work to purchase the car.

Your Kid’s Education

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Research.com said that the average yearly U.S. tuition in 2021 for private education before college was $12,350. Instead of dipping into your retirement money to send your child to private school, start saving for tuition as soon as you have your child to avoid hefty loans.

Your Summer Vacation

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Paying for your summer vacation in cash will avoid any debt accumulation that can occur from having to take out a loan or putting it onto your credit card. It helps to promote saving in advance for your vacation, making it feel extra special when you go.

Your Home Furnishings

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If you’ve recently purchased a new home, then there’s no doubt going to be a mortgage where you have to pay a hefty amount each month. Saving for home furnishings upfront will avoid any more debts in your name. If you need to budget, then you can even look into secondhand options.

Small Everyday Spending

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Paying with cash for everyday items means you don’t overspend. For example, U.S. News writes, “Paying with physical cash rather than other forms of credit makes it nearly impossible to spend more money than you have.” It will encourage you to budget and may even prevent things such as overdraft fees.

Buying Secondhand from Online Sellers

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This helps reduce the risk of fraud in transactions with secondhand sellers. It will also encourage safer in-person exchanges, as the seller won’t have access to any of your personal details. Purchasing in cash from secondhand sellers is a great way to promote privacy and financial security.

Traveling Abroad

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You should always pay in cash when abroad, as there can be some hefty charges if you choose to pay on a credit card. Paying for things this way also encourages you to stick to a budget while you’re abroad and not spend more than you actually have. It keeps you disciplined and means you can plan ahead.

Dining Out

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Paying by credit card when you dine out isn’t always the best option when it comes to leaving a tip. For example, Real Simple writes, “There can be a delay in processing credit card tips, so the workers may have to wait until the next payday to receive the money.”

Entertainment and Leisure Activities

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If you enjoy going out for entertainment and leisure activities, then paying in cash can ensure that you still have a good time while also sticking to a budget. It avoids the accumulation of unnecessary debt, as you can’t accidentally spend more than you have.

Emergency Services

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Emergency services can have surcharges and processing fees when paying by credit. Paying in cash ensures that you pay immediately and don’t become dependent on any credit facilities. Having money saved in case of an emergency also helps to keep you prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.

Personal Care Services

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Insight Salon & Spa Software writes, “Many small businesses, especially salons and spas, have been slow to accept credit card payments.” The last thing you would want would be to head to a salon to find they only accept cash. It also means you can tip directly and avoid overspending.

Local Market Purchases

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Paying in cash at your local market helps directly support small businesses. Many market stall owners may also have minimum card spending, so this allows you to budget and stops you from overspending on items you don’t need. It helps to create mindful community engagement and spending.

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