Credit Card Use and Weight Gain are Correlated

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Consumers are more likely to gain weight when paying with credit cards, because they are more likely to buy junk food as a result, according to a new study.

"A good rule of a thumb is to never charge anything that you can eat," said Denise Winston, author of the book Money Start$ Here. "Just carry cash, because you can't spend what you don't have."

A Journal of Consumer Research report written by economists Manoj Thomas, Kalpesh Kaushik Desai and Satheeshkumar Seenivasan concluded that shoppers paying with credit cards find it harder to resist indulgent purchases such as fast food or unhealthy treats.

"Credit cards are synonymous with a buy now, pay later mentality," said Sam Milo, spokesperson for PaydayLoansOnline.net, a short term loan comparison site. "This intriguing study published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that this way of thinking also applies to the contents of the shopping trolley being paid for by plastic. As a result, the consequences of certain purchases are just not being thought through."

Credit cards weaken the impulse control of consumers, making it more difficult for them to rationalize that something is not a necessary purchase, according to the study.

"It gives a lot of people a rush to use a credit card but you become numb when using one, so I recommend a debit card instead because you get the same hit without incurring debt when the purchase amount is withdrawn from your checking account," Winston said.

As the economy rebounds, credit-card solicitations are on the rise with direct-mail pitches increasing by 18.5% in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the previous quarter, according to the Mintel Group. In total, American consumers owe $11.19 trillion in debt of which $849.8 billion is from credit cards.

PayDayLoansonline.net suggests consumers pay for food purchases with cash or debit card only, forcing them to be mindful of their wallets as well as their waistlines.

"We encourage consumers, especially those living on tight budgets, to use cash only when shopping for groceries and foods and to stick to a set shopping list," Milo said. "This will make it harder to splurge on expensive, bad junk food or not consider the necessity of certain additional items that are not on their list."

The research was compiled by studying the contents of shopping baskets.

"People deb,t because they're not clear on what their income is and then use credit cards to make up the difference," Winston said. "It's the same thing with food. We eat a bunch of calories, because we don't run the numbers but fast food restaurants are starting to put calories on the board now."

Joining McDonald's and other restaurant chains who have been posting their calories on menus, Starbucks announced plans to post calorie information for its beverages on menu boards this summer.

"People can now make an educated decision and be more conscious," said Winston.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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