How to Really Be in the Black over the Holidays

I must admit that I allowed myself a little chuckle over the holidays while watching Interac’s pervasive “Be in the Black” commercials – and not because I was amused by ‘Holiday Bill’. For those of you not familiar with this holiday advertising campaign, here are some details, in Interac’s own words…

We are dedicated to talking to Canadians about the value of using their own money, to pay or exchange money with family, friends, neighbours or merchants.  Our message is being delivered through our “Interac Be in the black” platform featuring insightful, straightforward and bold communication about why life is just better when you use your own money. Our desire is that through your payment choices, you will find yourselves on the positive side of debt – in the black versus in the red. By paying with the money you actually have, you can enjoy the things you bought rather than worry about paying them off. Your bank balance will be truly balanced – in real time, all the time.

Unfortunately, the only thing that is ‘black’ about this campaign is what the pot is calling the kettle.

Is there really a difference between using your credit cards or your debit card for point of purchase sales during the holiday season? Not if you have lots of money. If that’s the case, you can either spend it directly from your account, or spend it on credit cards and pay ‘Holiday Bill’ in full when he arrives.

But what if, like most Canadians, you don’t have lots of money just sitting around waiting to be spent. Well, in that case, you can either spend like a rock star and put it on your credit cards, or you can spend the little money you have in your account using your debit card.

Great stuff! That’s what Interac is talking about, right? Well yes and no, because there are two problems with this scenario. The first is that after paying with your debit card, you’re not provided with the remaining balance in your account. If you’re on a tight budget this makes Christmas shopping more like spinning the roulette wheel – or trying to count cards – because you never know when you will run out of money. Unless…

Unless you are one of the millions of Canadians with overdraft protection on your bank account. With overdraft, you can keep on spending, even if you are out of money. It’s kind of like a credit card, except the interest rates are even higher! If you do have overdraft protection, Interac offers you absolutely no protection from holiday overspending – actually, it encourages it and leaves you with an even heftier “Holiday Bill”.

There is only one true way to prevent using holiday overspending and that is to use cash. Stopping at an ATM while holiday shopping, you are able to choose exactly how much cash you are going to spend. In doing so you will always immediately know how much you have left in your pocket and, most importantly, you will also know how much is left in your account, thanks to your handy ATM receipt.

So if you really want to #beintheblack next holiday season, trying using cash. Because using cash is the easiest way to #savecash.

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