There is some nuance to the argument for never using a credit card again, but this line, from a New York Times article last fall, is a fair, if reductive, distillation of it: “In certain contexts, people were willing to pay up to twice as much for the same item when paying with a credit card instead of cash.” People using the same nation’s dollars, buying the same products, under the same experimental conditions, found it acceptable to part with twice as much money if they used a credit card instead of cash. Twice as much.
The country surely has a problem with credit-card debt, which, per capita, increased 1,500 percent between 1980 and 2010. That’s what most people assume to be the issue with using a credit card. (“Most people," by the way, are likely wrong: A 2009 study found that two-thirds of Americans don’t actually know how credit cards work.) But their other damaging quality—one that applies even to people who pay all their bills on time—is their ability to anesthetize the pain of a transaction by delaying payment.
Credit cards effectively give people interest-free loans (for those who pay their bills on time), which in part explains why people would pay extra to use them. But the amount of overspending they induce more than eats up any financial gain from an interest-free loan. Essentially, using a credit card means agreeing to pay a hefty tax to make transactions seem less painful. No matter how much rationalizing one tries to do—"But I get so many frequent-flier miles from my card!”; "But I can always pay my bill!"—the overspending induced by a credit card will, except in tandem with the most un-fun, disciplined rules, outweigh its perks.