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A trip through the grocery store checkout lane can sometimes feel like a game of Twenty Questions. Paper or plastic? Debit or Credit? PIN or pen? Even more frustrating, while you are trying to decide which payment option to use you may be missing the “Latest Weight Loss Sensation” or “Elvis Fathers Britney Spears’ Third Child” articles in the adjacent magazine racks. Does it have to be like this? Absolutely not.
Let me walk you through a typical shopping trip to illustrate the difference between payment options. Last Saturday’s agenda: pick up the dry cleaning, find a new car seat for my granddaughter, buy some groceries at the local Harris Teeter, and bring home lunch for my family. In my tool belt (read “wallet”): a Members Credit Union Cash Card and Visa Debit Card.
I started my travels on Winston-Salem’s Stratford Road being careful to avoid the drivers who insist on multi-tasking (the bumper sticker “Hang Up and Drive” could not be more appropriate). Arriving at the dry cleaners, I received a bill for $31.28. Three payment options were available: cash, credit, or debit. With only $12.00 or so in my wallet, the cash option would not work, so I needed to decide between using my Cash Card (debit transaction) or my Visa Debit Card (credit transaction). Knowing that a Cash Card transaction requires a retailer be on the Star Network, I look for the Star logo. There it was, right on the cash register. Easy decision for me, then; small transaction amount, retailer accepts cards on the Star Network, I use the Cash Card and type in my PIN.
Now it’s off to Target to find a car seat. The intersection of Stratford Road and Hanes Mall Road never fails to produce amazing human behavior. The game, it seems, is to see how many people can run a red light. There were many winners this day – I was not among them.
My bewilderment about the overwhelming number of car seats must have been glaringly obvious because a friendly Target employee quickly offered her assistance to me.
“I’m looking for a Zephyr car seat.” I told the nice lady, remembering my wife’s strict instructions.
“Oh, a Graco Platinum Zephyr Cargo Forward-Facing Car Seat?” she asked.
The cashier scanned my purchase and informed me of the damage: $106.99 with tax. Target accepts cards in the Star Network, so my Cash Card was still in play. However, this was a purchase of returnable items. With my Visa Debit Card I can get what are called “chargeback rights”. This is a fancy term for consumer protection. With chargeback rights, I can dispute charges to my card for a variety of reasons: product/service was damaged, not delivered in a timely manner, or the purchase was not authorized. If this car seat turns out to be defective, and Target disallows a return or exchange, I could use the power of Visa to help me pursue a refund. This was an easy decision: I pressed credit, swiped my card, and signed the receipt.
Then it was off to Harris Teeter for bread, milk, and some random other groceries (four words: Cherry Garcia ice cream). I zoomed down the aisles like a Cub Scout in a soapbox derby, my empty stomach reminding me of the time Mafia-style. Shopping while hungry is a serious offense, to be sure, and may cause full shopping carts and depleted checking account balances. I resisted as well as could be expected, laboring into the checkout lane with “only” $53.17 of groceries.
I knew that I still had to stop and pick up lunch, so this payment method would be an easy choice. There was no way the $12.00 in my pocket would buy lunch for four, so I needed to pick the option that allowed cash back from my purchase. The only way to do this with a Members Credit Union plastic is to use the “ATM/debit” option with a Cash Card. The Visa Debit Card will not allow this type of transaction. So, I informed the cashier I would like cash back, pressed “ATM/Debit” on the POS terminal, swiped my Cash Card, and entered my Cash Card PIN.
With $52.00 now in my pocket, I needed only to drive over to Moe’s Southwest Grill to unofficially be crowned the weekend’s King of Shop. I placed my order, paid $29.46, and drove home to receive my reward.
“Jack, you forgot the laundry detergent.”

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