9 Reasons You Should Always Carry $200 in Cash

We always need money to purchase what we need and desire. As consumers, we pay using old fashioned cash, or the more sophisticated credit or debit cards. Cards became popular sixty years ago and today they are used more frequently than cash. Yet, when you are in a pinch and can’t use either card, keeping $200 in cash on you is the next best alternative for nine reasons.

1. Electric grid shutdown: This is truly a nightmare that can destabilize the entire country, causing all electricity in the country to shut down. This scenario will turn off your credit and debit cards so you can’t use them at all. Not only is it good to carry money, but buying $200 worth of supplies before it occurs is essential to surviving the ordeal.

2. Frozen debit or credit card accounts: Both types of cards can freeze due to fraud. Banks freeze debit cards due to lack of funds in an account. Credit cards can be frozen due to missing payments when they are due. If you only use one of these types of cards and you can’t use it, then use cash to buy only what you need.

3. Car Battery: Sometimes your car battery breaks down after a couple of years of use. You could be at home or on the road when that engine won’t start. If you have a handy “Triple A” account, call them and ask to send out a service vehicle that carries car batteries. Several months ago, while my wife and I went shopping, we got back to the car and it wouldn’t start. She called Triple A and they sent out a service vehicle. Our car needed a new battery. The battery cost about $150 cash immediately. We could have used a credit or debit card, but we would have paid about $15 more.

4. Towing: If your car breaks down and you don’t have Triple A, calling a reliable towing service is a must. The person towing your vehicle will ask for payment in cash if he has his own towing business. According to the Angieslist website, the average 40-mile tow costs between $75 to $125. But a tow to another city might cost $200.

5. Locked out of your car: You come back to your car after shopping or working all day, you get to your car, look for the keys, but they are not there. You remember you don’t have a spare key, so you may need to call a mobile locksmith to come to you and make a new key. According to the Homeadviser website, the latest average charge for a locksmith is $150.

6. Buying gas with cash: If you use the credit/debit card scanner at small markets to buy gas, you are more likely to be ripped off by crooks who install card readers, which steals all of your private card information. I always go to the cashier and say, “I need $20 on pump number 3 and a receipt, please.” Of course, you must make a general calculation of how many gallons your car needs and multiply that by the price for one gallon. I ask for a receipt in case I need less gas, so I can get a refund for the difference. You will use cash repeatedly to pay for gas when you’re on a trip.

7. Flea markets, pawn shops, arts and craft fairs: When you’re on vacation or at home, you might enjoy visiting out-of-the-way tiny shops. Many of their items are surprisingly cheap. So, take a few $1, $5, and $10 bills if you choose to buy some goodies.

8. Restaurants and snack machines: So many restaurants accept cash only, especially off the beaten path “dives.” Also, “drive-through” fast food restaurants always take cash, because paying with credit and debit cards takes up more time and are less convenient. Snack machines are available in many locations, such as the workplace, community colleges, and universities. If you work or study at these places all day, snack machines are good places to get some nourishment. Most only accept cash.

9. Tipping: Waiters and waitresses always appreciate being tipped in cash (use $1’s, $5’s, and maybe $10’s). You will need about $200 for repeated tipping when you go on vacation because you are bound to eat at many restaurants.

Paying with credit and debit cards are convenient ways to purchase what you need and want. Sometimes, you can’t always pay with either card, so squirreling away $200 in cash with you when leaving your house can be a lifesaver. In emergencies, credit and debit cards can be of little use like: national electric grid shutdowns, frozen cards, road emergency assistance. Other times, you will need the same amount of cash for items when you go out of town: gas, flea markets, restaurants, snack areas, and tipping. If you do not carry either a debit or credit card, or forget to bring them with you, then remember the old business motto: Cash is king.

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