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Should You Put Small Purchases on Credit Cards?

Slickdeals logo Slickdeals 11/12/2020 Ryan Tronier

a person holding a cup © Provided by Slickdeals

When you get your morning latte and bagel, how do you pay for it ⁠— cash or credit? According to a survey from, while most people in the U.S. still use cash for small purchases, the number of folks opting to swipe a credit card is increasing.

That increase is even more pronounced among rewards credit card holders. The survey noted that 26% of them preferred to use their rewards card for small purchases, which is a 3% increase from last year.

Over 25% of rewards card users pay for small purchases (under $10) with their credit.

Among the rewards credit card holders surveyed, 40% said the reason they might choose cash or a debit card for small purchases was that they were easier or quicker to use than a credit card. However, this is likely to change in upcoming years, as contactless cards and mobile payments become more streamlined and commonplace.

Should You Put Small Purchases on Credit Cards for Rewards?

Cash and credit cards each come with their own set of perks and downsides. Using cash for small purchases might keep your budget in line, but you also miss out on potential rewards. Additionally, tracking expenses for self-run businesses is easier with a credit card.

From the survey, 24% of respondents who hold rewards credit cards relied on cash because they feared credit card debt. It’s a valid concern. It can be easier to rack up debt when putting small purchases on your credit card.

For example, a $5 latte each morning and a $9 sandwich for lunch doesn’t seem significant, but after a month of work, you’ll have a $280 bill. If you are unable to pay off your balance in full each month, then what you pay in interest voids any rewards earned with your card.

>>MORE: This Card May Be the Best for Buying a Cup of Coffee

On the other side, credit cards come with an added layer of protection that debit cards still lack. If you use your debit card at a shady gas station, those $10 purchases could end up costing you a few hundred dollars if your info gets into the wrong hands.

Banks will work with you to reverse fraudulent charges, but sometimes this can take days or weeks. And in the meantime, your main source of money is tied up. When your credit card is compromised, you’re able to report fraudulent spending immediately, and you will not be responsible for the charges. Your bank account remains untouched.

So, should you use a rewards credit card for purchases under $10? Ultimately, the answer is yes. But that’s only if you can pay off your balance and avoid late fees. And you should especially consider always using a credit card when shopping online or at establishments you don’t fully trust.

Best Credit Cards for Small Purchases

If you are going to use a credit card for small purchases, then choose one that rewards your spending. For example, if you spend more money on food than anything else, look for a card that gives the most cash back for grocery stores and dining expenses like takeout and delivery. For many shoppers, the following cards will offer the most rewards for all types of spending.

Credit cards have a reputation for causing people to go into debt. Yet the idea that opening credit cards is a bad financial choice isn’t fair or accurate. You get to decide how you will use your credit cards, just as you get to decide how you’ll use the money in your bank account.

Our card roundups help people maximize their credit card rewards earnings for planned, everyday spending. Here are a few to get you started:

If you feel confident that you can manage your credit cards responsibly (paying on time and in full every month), your accounts can be an asset instead of a burden. A well-managed credit card may help you to establish better credit scores over time and can help you take advantage of some amazing rewards.

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