Are credit cards money? 

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Credit cards are not money. As the name implies, they give you credit: an IOU. The bank, in other words, is loaning you money when you use a credit card. You have to pay this money back within a certain time frame or you will be charged interest for the use of the money. The interest is often very high, so if you don't have the money to pay off the credit card, it it best to avoid using one. If you must borrow money, it is best to get a lower cost bank loan.

Money, in contrast, is legal tender that you get in form of metal coins and paper bills. Once you hand that over in exchange for a good, you don't have to pay anything else. There is no interest charge for paying with cash, because cash is not a loan. Cash is the best way to purchase items, though one we have moved away from in this culture because it is cumbersome to carry around cash—and puts you at risk of being robbed—whereas credit cards are easy to carry. However, they are not the same as cash.

Some eateries in New York City made the news not too long ago because they announced they would not accept cash. That was a problem on several fronts: first, a country's currency is legal tender in that country, and it is illegal not to accept it. Second, many people pointed that barring cash payments discriminates against the poor, who may not have a credit or debit card. Third, privacy advocates noted that all credit or debit card transactions are tracked and that individuals may not want every purchase they make tracked. This helps illustrate that money and credit cards are not simply interchangeable: one is loan and leaves a trail; the other, money, is simply a price paid for a good or service.

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Strictly speaking, credit cards are not the same as money. While credit cards are used to make purchases the same as cash or checks and, consequently, represent money, there is an important distinction between credit and cash. Credit cards are a bank's authorization for customers to borrow money up to prescribed limits with which to make purchases. Those prescribed limits are calculated by the lending institution (i.e., the institution issuing the credit card) taking into account the individual customer's credit history (how reliable has the individual been in making payments on time and in the requisite amount) and income. The better one's credit history, they more one is able to borrow, at least in theory. Sometimes, predatory lending practices by lending institutions of questionable ethics provide levels of credit to individuals whose personal financial history would not seemingly warrant those levels of credit. This is done to draw in the consumer knowing that he or she will hard-pressed to make monthly payments that exceed the "minimum payment due" amount, most of which probably goes strictly to interest.

Credit cards, then, are not money; they are debt. They are used to borrow money—money that must be repaid to the lending institution. That they represent monetary value is what makes the distinction confusing.

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According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, credit cards are not money. You can use credit cards to make purchases, so they seem to function like money; however, that doesn't make credit cards money. We can create two very broad categories to help explain why credit cards are not money. Cash and money in bank accounts are assets. An asset is "something that serves as a medium of exchange, acts as a standard of value that is generally acceptable for the purchases of goods and services or the repayment of debts, and serves as a unit of account." The opposite of an asset is a liability. Credit cards create debt. It is essentially like taking out a loan. The credit card allows a person to purchase something, but actual money has to be paid to the credit card company. The credit card company is loaning money to the card user, and the user must pay back the loan/debt/liability with money (an asset).

I would like to point out that debit cards do count as money. This is because a debit card is tied directly to a checking account. When you purchase with a debit card, an existing financial asset (money) is being transferred from a bank account.

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Credit cards are not money.  To see why this is so, let us look at the three functions that money must fulfill.  

Money must serve as a medium of exchange and as a unit of account. Credit cards function in both of these ways.  You can typically use your credit card to buy things, making them a medium of exchange.  Your bill tells you exactly how much you have spent, making the statement (at least) a unit of account.  

But money must also serve as a store of value.  This means that money must hold its value for a long period of time.  Credit cards do not serve this function.  They are really only a short term loan.  If your credit card company refuses to honor your card, your card is useless. Thus, credit cards do not act as a store of value and are not money.

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