15 Things You Should Always Buy With Cash

You may want to keep some cash on hand for these items.

Smiling african american barista taking cash payment from customer on bar counter in cafe.
Updated July 18, 2024
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You may not remember the last time you used cash, instead opting for more convenient payment methods like rewards credit cards.

But you may be better off paying cash for certain items rather than immediately grabbing the plastic card in your wallet.

Keep some cash in your pocket if you expect to pay for these 15 things soon.

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Gas

rh2010/Adobe woman paying for gas using smartphone

Gas prices are off from their record highs two years ago, but it’s still pretty expensive to fill your tank up.

Check with your local gas stations to see if they give discounts for cash instead of paying with a credit card at the pump. You could also avoid potential skimming scams that could steal your credit card information.

Online secondhand items

Dani/Adobe woman preparing clothes to sell online

You can score some great deals through sites like Craigslist or local Facebook resale groups.

But you may want to pay for those items in cash instead of giving sellers your credit card information or a check that may have your personal details on it.

Garage sales

Kathy images/Adobe asian woman posing in yard sale

The summer means more people may be moving or cleaning out their homes, which could lead to some great finds at garage sales.

Most garage sales are run by people selling items out of their garages or yards, making it much easier to deal with cash than other forms of payment, and cash could help you negotiate prices more easily.

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Doctor bills

Antonioguillem/Adobe woman with leg injury working from home

Doctor bills can add up, especially when you get a co-pay here and a co-pay there.

Doctors also have bills they have to pay in the form of credit card transaction fees. So check on your medical bills and see if you can get a discount if you pay those co-pays in cash.

Items you might return

StockPhotoPro/Adobe woman choosing clothes from wardrobe

Stores like Target and Walmart can make it convenient to process returns. However, they may process the return by putting money back on your credit card, which can take a couple of days.

But you could quickly get money back in your hand if you pay for those items in cash.

If you plan to do this instead of paying with a credit card, it’s important to review the store’s return policy and save the receipt just in case.

International purchases

Monkey Business/Adobe female friends shopping on ibiza streets

Summer is a great time to go on vacation and maybe take a trip out of the country.

Consider picking up some cash for the country you’ll be visiting to help you avoid international transaction fees or pay for items that may be bought with cash only.

It can also help you get out of a jam if you need money, and cash is the only option.

Government fees

Jess_Ivanova/Adobe woman getting money at currency exchange

You may have to pay government fees such as a car registration, utility bill, or fine. However, government agencies may pass on the credit card processing fee to you, which can be costly depending on the bill.

Instead, consider paying those fees in person with cash to avoid the extra surcharge and save a little money.

Anything you need to buy on a budget

New Africa/Adobe couple counting money while reviewing budget

You may have certain transactions you’re trying to limit your spending on. It could be necessities like groceries or fun purchases like new clothes.

Cash can be a good option because it limits how much you can spend compared to a credit card, giving you additional restrictions to help you stick with your budget.

Home services

Paul Bradbury/KOTO/Adobe male plumber talking to house owner

Homeowners need to pay for services like plumbing, painting, or electrical work, which is usually done by small businesses.

Those businesses may prefer using cash for transactions, so check with them to see if you can get a discount for paying without a credit card.

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Farmers market

DC Studio/Adobe senior man buying organic apples

Your local farmers market is a great place to find fresh produce and handmade crafts. You could even get some honey directly from local beekeepers.

Many stalls at a farmers market won’t take anything but cash or may have some extra hassle with charging a card. Help out your local farmers and artisans by using cash.

Craft fairs

TenWit/Adobe woman buying handmade jewelry from stall

Another place where you’ll find local artisans is a craft show, where sellers show off their paintings, pottery, knit items, or other crafts.

Like farmers, craft shows display the work of small businesses that may be happier to take cash instead of dealing with credit card payments.

Event parking

Алексей Закиров/Adobe automotive industry and hybrid car concept

Plenty of events throughout the year require you to park somewhere close. If you have to pay for parking at the event, it’s a good idea to bring cash to make it easier to pay and get the spot you want rather than hoping the lot takes credit cards.

Restaurant tips

seanlockephotography/Adobe coffee server picking tips from table

It can be easy to simply fill out the tip line on a credit card payment slip when you’re at a restaurant, but you may want to rethink your tipping habits.

Instead, consider leaving the tip line blank and paying the tip in cash. This helps servers get the cash directly into their pockets instead of waiting for credit card payments or paying credit card fees.

Vending machine snacks

Syda Productions/Adobe person buying food from vending machine

More vending machines are adding a convenient option by allowing you to pay for soda, candy, and other snacks with a credit card.

But you may be charged an additional fee, which can be frustrating when you’re only charging a dollar or so on your card.

So stick to doing it the old-fashioned way and pay for your treats with cash.

Charitable donations

guy2men/Adobe dollar heart in box donation concept

Charities rely on donations, but they may have to spend some of your donation on transaction fees if you use a credit card.

Instead, consider donating with cash so all of your donations can go straight to the charity.

Remember to also get a receipt for your donation in case you need it for tax purposes.

Bottom line

Mihail/Adobe paying dollar cash

Cash isn’t always king, but there are times when it can help you save money or boost your bank account.

It can also help the businesses and charities you may frequent by allowing them to avoid additional transaction fees on your purchases.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.