The Cost of Convenience: How Credit Cards Weaken Impulse Control and Increase Unhealthy Food Purchases

Some unhealthy products spontaneously elicit impulsive responses that are difficult to control because they are faster than deliberative responses. Mode of payment can facilitate or inhibit consumers' ability to control impulsive purchases of such products. Cash payments activate regulatory thoughts and thus help consumers control their spontaneous impulses. Credit cards activate consummatory thoughts and thus render consumers less prepared for impulse control. Results from two laboratory experiments and a field study support this hypothesis. Participants on a diet were more successful in controlling their impulses when they paid by cash. In contrast, credit cards increased impulsive spending caused by chronic impulsivity (Study 1) and impulsive products (Study 2). Analysis of actual shopping behaviors of 1000 households over a period of six months revealed that shopping baskets have a larger proportion of unhealthy food items when shoppers use credit cards to pay for the purchases (Study 3).


Manoj Thomas, Kalpesh Kaushik Desai, and Satheesh Kumar (2011) ,"The Cost of Convenience: How Credit Cards Weaken Impulse Control and Increase Unhealthy Food Purchases", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 9, eds. Alan Bradshaw, Chris Hackley, and Pauline Maclaran, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 462-463.


Manoj Thomas, Cornell University, USA
Kalpesh Kaushik Desai, SUNY Binghamton
Satheesh Kumar, SUNY Buffalo


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 9 | 2011

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