Credit or Debit? A Gen X Perspective

It seems no matter where payments technology goes, getting consumers to adopt it comes down to personal preference, habits. I prefer credit. My (younger) colleagues don't.


It seems no matter where technology goes, getting consumers to adopt the technology comes down to personal preference, habits. I prefer credit. It doesn’t matter the size of the charge — from a $3 latte mini-splurge to my $300 cowboy boots real splurge. I like my miles and I like the float. I also pay my bills monthly, so my financial institution doesn’t earn any interest income off me.

Apparently, I’m in the minority now. In an un-scientific office poll, a majority of my colleagues said they use debit (qualifier: most of them are younger than 30). Why? The two most popular answers were “budgeting” and “I don’t have my own credit card.” VISA made headlines in 2009 with a more scientific confirmation of this phenomenon when it found debit charges surpassed credit for the first time in 2008.

What about when I buy online? Credit card again…almost everywhere. If necessary, my husband has a PayPal account we use to buy Thomas the Tank Engine trains and Halloween costumes on eBay. He has it set up to debit his credit union account via ACH; a credit card is the back-up because he said “they made it next to impossible to choose credit as the first choice.”

We pay most of our utilities through the biller websites, which debit our credit union checking account. And checks? Once a week. To the babysitter. Every so often, we cut a check for school fees or field trips. We use bill pay, too, although not as often. A missing check here… a delayed payment there… it’s not our first choice by default. What about your members’ preferences?

Mobile? Now that’s intriguing—mostly for the peer-to-peer side of things. I am married to my iPhone (don’t worry about telling my husband, he has his own and an iPad now too). I could see myself using mobile payments to replace checks as I’d love to get rid of my checkbook (one FI tried to charge me $50 for a new set of checks!). Mobile is really the missing link for me. I’d love to use a P2P service. Where are payments going?

This article previously ran in 1Q 2010 edition of Technology @CU.


Jan. 12, 2012


  • Fun and factual read. I am way, way over 30 but am a debit card junkie. Not because I don't have a credit card or don't think credit cards can do for me what a debit card can do. I hate bills and it seems like as soon as I use my credit card with the intent of paying it off at the end of the month, something huge and expensive happens to totally obliterate my good intentions. Getting the bill is depressing and I am an anti-depression person. So I use debit - but with overdraft protection, just in case. Yes - I did sign for REG E - willingly and enthusiastically. I use my credit card any time I want the extra guarantee protection though. I've been the victim of ID theft once and thankfully my credit card company did everything right and I didn't suffer consequences. Thanks for the article.
  • I'm with Jane on this one as I too am a debit card junkie and I'm 12 years past the age of 30. Paying my credit card bill off at the end of the month?! Ha, ha, ha......Thanks for the article. Maybe someday soon mobile banking will be my new love.