Credit or Debit?

I’ve realised that to survive financially in this world I effectively need to work the system. The problem is, I have no idea how to work it. Worse than that, I have no idea what the system even is. I think it’s done on purpose, because imagine if we all knew what the system was and were adept at working it to our advantage. Now before you switch off wondering what the hell I’m talking about – it’s the little thing we call society. Our daily lives. How we go about our business. How to protect yourself from getting screwed on a daily basis that may only be a dollar here or there, but I’m sure adds up over a year, or even a whole lifetime, to quite a substantial amount.

The way I see it, the problem is a lack of consistency. Here are a few examples I’ve encountered over the last few days. If I walk into Coffee Bean and request a latte I get asked if it’s for here or to go. Fair enough. If it’s ‘for here’ then I get charged more for the same coffee in the same take away cup than if I simply said ‘to go’. However, it wasn’t me that actually came to this conclusion – it was the ‘barista’, for want of a better word, who suggested I say to go, so I would pay less. Um, ok. Obviously not one to toe the company line and eek out every penny from every customer, my friendly coffee mutilator was doing me a favour. Now I understand that Coffee Bean has free internet access and so maybe they feel that if you are staying in to partake of your beverage you must be using their Internet. But what if I’m not? What am I paying extra for? It would seem that I am hiring a seat for an hour to drink my unbearably hot and burnt milky latte. At least put it in a proper mug or something. Otherwise I’m sitting there next to someone who is drinking the same drink out of the same take away cup but who paid less simply because they knew to say ‘to go’, and then decide to sit down.

And so it goes on. These days you no longer have a debit card and a credit card. They are one and the same. One card that you can treat as a credit card and sign for, or should you wish, use your pin number to complete your purchase. It’s supposed to make things simpler right? I concur. As a former resident of about 3 countries now, my fumbling through debit and credit cards from each country is quite a sight to see. My NZ influence is still strong – as in I never carry cash. Ever. Everything goes on the debit card. Mainly because I hate carrying coins. It’s one of life’s annoying little chores. And in America where you constantly find yourself with a plethora of dirty looking pennies it just shits me to tears quite frankly. There is absolutely nothing you can do with them. NZ had the right idea when they got rid of everything less than a 10cent piece. America should look into that. Anything silver I can deal with – that goes into the parking meters ad nauseum. But those copper things are pure evil. However, I digress.

To further digress, here’s a video of a girl dancing at home to the song debit or credit. I find these things so you don’t have to.


My obsession with putting everything on my debit card knows no bounds. However, I’ve noticed recently that using my debit/credit card is confusing in itself. I’ve always assumed that saying credit meant signing and saying debit meant a pin number. But it seems that purchases under a certain amount are a law unto themselves and my card is just swiped and handed back to me. No pin number. No signing. Just thanks. That to me seems weird. However it’s not a general rule. Some places do, some don’t. I feel like an idiot when I come across a place that doesn’t, and I find myself holding up the queue behind me while I sign my credit card slip for a $4.15 coffee (adding a tip of course), while I’m sure people behind are scoffing about the douchebag in front who has to put a coffee on credit. I can hear their silent mocking and heckling. I was never asked if it was debit or credit. I would have said debit and punched in a number. They just assume it’s credit. I just assumed it would be swiped no questions or signatures asked. I swear. I’m not a douchebag.

Adding to my confusion, I recently found myself in a fast food outlet who in fact did ask the question, after I swiped my card to pay for my $6.85 combo, whether that would be debit or credit. I said debit. I was advised that I would incur a $1 charge and I should change my answer to credit. Which I did. As I signed off I wondered whether the silent mocking and heckling behind me was worth saving a dollar. But I’m trying to work the system here people. Sadly no one seemed sympathetic to my plight.

I went to the only source to see what I should do. There were a number of explanations. So I went with socks puppets. I figured if I wasn’t going to understand it anyway, I may as well blame bad audio quality and low budget socks. Now when I get it wrong I can say “the sock puppet told me to”. It’s a phrase I’ve always wanted to use, but strangely enough difficult to get into an everyday situation.


So for once I thought I had it partially figured out. Saying debit is bad. Credit is good. Until last week when I filled up with gas. Usually I just swipe my card at the bowser and away I go. But on two instances this week I had the dreaded “please see attendant” message flash before me. Funnily enough when you go inside, they never actually tell you why you need to pay inside. I was asked if it was debit or credit. I said credit. I was advised that they only take cash or debit. But it’s the same damn card! I simply replaced and swapped a couple of letters – a ‘d’ for a ‘cr’ and lost a ‘b’. It’s this sort of insanity that turns strange people just that little bit stranger.

Fine I thought, I will go with the flow and resume my love affair with debit. This was further substantiated by another trip to the gas station yesterday (in LA one uses a LOT of gas) where once again I was asked the question, “is that debit or credit?”. I paused. What to say? What would be the right answer? I tossed a mental coin and went with debit. The reply was, “that’s good. it means you get it for the cheap price”. For debit at this establishment was deemed to be the same as cash and therefore attracted the ‘lower price for cash’ rate. Success! For once I stumbled across the correct answer. Be it dumb luck or pure genius I pumped the gas with renewed confidence. I danced at the bowser. Sadly I didn’t film it. Frankly I don’t have the booty to pull it off.

So in my endeavor to work the system I have come to the conclusion that there is no system. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who I give my money to, or how I give it to them. It only matters how they feel the need to penalise me for giving them my money.

I just hope that when I die there is no entrance fee to the pearly gates. I don’t want that dilemma of having my entire afterlife determined by incorrectly answering the question, “is that debit or credit?”.

For that one time only, I will carry cash.

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