Why Credit Cards Are Not the Answer


It has been suggested that blind people don’t need a change to paper currency; instead, the argument goes, they can just use credit cards to make all of their purchases. Those who embrace this line of reasoning fail to realize that many credit card machines require entering information through flat touch screens—which are inaccessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. Since the keys on a flat touch screen are not distinguishable by touch, blind and visually impaired people have many of the same accessibility problems with these machines that they have with our currency. Also, many stores do not even accept credit cards, and many of those that do require a minimum purchase for the “privilege” of using a credit card. Not to mention the number of local service providers (taxicab drivers, babysitters, landscapers, and more) who cannot accept credit cards. Of course, all of those arguments pale in comparison to the argument, “Why should blind and visually impaired people have to pay interest on their purchases simply because of their lack of eyesight?” Do those who promote the credit card solution to the currency identification challenges faced by blind and visually impaired Americans really believe that’s a fair result?

Some may respond that blind and visually impaired Americans don’t need to pay interest if they use a debit card instead of a conventional credit card. The problem with that argument is that in order to use a debit card, unlike a credit card, you must enter your personal identification number. This forces blind and visually impaired Americans, at stores with flat touch screen credit card machines, to tell their PIN number to a total stranger. Surely, no one thinks that is a good idea.

Even if blind or visually impaired people are willing to use conventional credit cards or if their debit cards can be used like credit cards, they must still sign for most purchases. For a myriad of reasons, many blind people would have difficulty signing their names. Whether it is because they need assistance finding where to sign on the inaccessible touch screen, or whether it is because they have not yet learned how to sign their names in print (either manually or using a personal hand stamp), these blind people are effectively precluded from using credit cards to make purchases.

It is true that credit cards can sometimes be more convenient than cash, but it is equally true that there are many instances where using a credit card is either not an option or far less convenient than using cash. We would never tolerate a system that required all people to charge every one of their purchases, so why is it acceptable to expect blind people to do so? If we did decide that all people needed to use credit cards, society would have to change in many ways to make their use easier. For one thing, there would be no more minimum purchase requirements for the use of credit cards. Additionally, every business and service provider would be required to accept credit cards. Even if all of those fundamental changes could be made—a proposition that is very unlikely—almost every American would oppose it, because there is no getting around the fact that for many reasons cash is simply easier to use.


12 Responses to “Why Credit Cards Are Not the Answer”

  1. Day Says:

    Those who make the credit card argument I think do not realize how much of our society is still quite strongly cash oriented.

    Public transportation systems are a good example. Yes, there are fare machines that accept credit cards, although not everywhere and their numbers are far exceeded by fare machines that take cash.

    Cabs and bus systems also tend to be cash-preferred modes of transportation. I can recall more than one occassion where I attempted to use a credit card for cab fare only to discover that they did not take cards, or that the fare was so low that it “wasn’t worth it.”

    Regarding store purchases – let us not forget that many places, in fact the vast majority ask that you spend a minimum of five dollars to use a credit card. Not such a happy thought when all I want is my three dollar and fifty-nine cent mocha.

    And of course, there is the favourite of every blind person – tipping. Cabbies, waiters, hair stylists, porters, doormen…the list goes on. As much as I may enjoy their services, I really don’t want to accidentally tip $20 when I’d much prefer to tip a $5, or a $10, or if the service is really bad, a $1.

    This isn’t to say that blind folk don’t organize their money. We do. And I am proud to say that my “system” works for me, but there is no reason in the world that making it possible for me to make change completely independently shouldn’t happen either.

  2. Candas Says:

    I believe that US currency should have some indentation on every domination of bill so that the blind or visually impaired can use paper money comfortably.

    The needs of people with vision impediments should not be ignored by those of us, in particular, the US Govt., who can’t relate to their experiences.

    Using a credit card isn’t practical for blind people and even those with perfect vision in certain instances. I know that if I can’t use my credit card, I can always go to the ATM take out cash or carry a few dollars with me just in case the corner deli only accepts cash.

    I support changing US currency so that it is more accessible to the blind and vision impaired. It just makes sense to me.

  3. Shirley Says:

    A lot of people don’t even have a credit card. What if they can’t get a credit card? Maybe they can’t qualify for a credit card. Does this mean they are not entitled to have the money? This way of thinking is discrimination and unfair to everyone. Wake up!!! Women get to vote, work outside of the home and even run a business. At one time Women didn’t have any rights, but because of change, women have rights. Its time for a change again, in our Paper Currency! The blind and visually impaired should be able to tell what kind of paper money they carry around on them just like you and me. It’s possible and it should have been done years ago.

  4. Karla Says:

    Earlier today, I had to get my application to take the Bar exam notarized before I mailed it in. I found a notary in my neighborhood online, and when I called to verify where he was located, I also asked what his fee was for notarizing a signature (it was $2) and asked him whether that fee had to be paid in cash or if he also accepted credit cards. (I was out of cash just then, and because this errand was somewhat time-sensitive, I wanted to avoid stopping at the ATM to get more money unless it was absolutely necessary.) The man kind of laughed at me over the phone when I asked this question and said, “I’m not going to run your credit card for a $2 fee, sorry.”

    I understand that credit card companies charge a fee to merchants when they run credit cards, so if I were a local service provider like this guy who only charges a nominal rate for the service, I probably wouldn’t accept credit cards either. This is just another illustration of why it’s impractical and unrealistic to ask blind and visually impaired people to make all of their purchases using credit cards.

  5. Jake Says:

    About two years ago a life-skills tutor and I went to a local store to pick up a window air conditioner that we had purchased online. We found the unit just fine and it has since proved to be a Godsend when it’s in use, but when it came time to pay we ran into a little trouble, or at least I did. My credit card PIN had to be entered, and guess what? That’s right, the keypad was not raised so I had to verbally give my PIN to my tutor and he entered it. Never before have I seen a tactile point-of-sale machine. This story I think clearly illustrates why credit cards are not always a viable solution. I only use my card, which is actually a debit card, to insert into an ATM when I need to withdraw some of those inaccessible bills. BTW, I have used the audio feature of ATM’s before and I find it to be very nice indeed. It’s kind of ironic that ATM’s are accessible and their contents aren’t.

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