Cash Alternatives in The Casino

By Bill Burton
It seems as if we are rapidly becoming a cashless society. Many businesses are encouraging/forcing their employees to use direct deposit for their paychecks which can be very practical since you don’t have to worry about rushing to the bank right after work. Using credit cards has also become a way of life.
The other day I was at the Post Office mailing out some copies of my book. I handed the clerk money to pay for the postage and was informed that the postal service also accepts credit cards. I prefer to pay cash for smaller items, but I know there are others who think differently.
Many people have credit cards that are linked to a “bonus program” that offers cash back, airline tickets or some other merchandise they can purchase with points they earn for each dollar they charge. This encourages people to charge items rather than pay cash for them. Credit card debt is the financial ruin of many people these days. It is too easy to get caught up in the Buy Now Pay Later mentality.
Carrying less cash does have its practicalities but the one place you should never use your credit card is at the casino. The number one rule of gambling is: NEVER BET MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD TO LOSE!
The casinos have a house edge most games so we refer to casino games as having a negative expectation. This means that over the long run the mathematics of the game will grind away at your bankroll. The built in house advantage is how the casinos make money. It is the price we pay to play. Consider it our price of entertainment. Proper money management tells us to budget a given amount to gamble with and stick to that amount, win lose or draw. This brings us to rule number two: NEVER GAMBLE WITH BORROWED MONEY!!
Unfortunately, that is exactly what you are doing if decide to take a cash advance on your credit card at the casino. There are also hidden charges you may overlook if you decide to do this. The casino charges you a processing fee just for issuing you a check from your credit card for the cash advance depending on how much money you want. At one casino I checked a charge for a cash advance of $500 was $21.99. That is 4.4 % paid to the casino upfront. Most credit card companies charge you 3% for cash advance, which will come to $15.66 (3% of $521.99)
That means you are already down $37.65 or 7.4% before you even sit down to play. That is the equivalent to sitting down at a $5 blackjack table and losing eight hands in a row, or getting nothing back after putting three-and-a-half rolls of quarters through a slot machine. If this happened most of us would head for the hills real fast, but you are just beginning and haven't started playing yet. This is why you should never use a credit card in the casino.

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Consider Alternatives - Although you should never use credit cards at the casino, there are alternatives to carrying cash. The most popular alternative is to use “Travelers Check.”  These can be replaced if they are lost or stolen on your trip. Some banks offer their customers free travelers checks. If you are a member of the AAA auto club you can get free checks from any of their local offices before you leave for vacation. 
You can also deposit money into the casino cage and then take a marker at the table. Many casinos will allow you to wire money in directly from your bank or you can deposit your money when you get there. This way you will not have a lot of cash to carry around the casino or leave in your room. The casino is not worried about your marker because it is your own money.
Another alternative to carrying cash is to use an ATM card. Before you take money out with your ATM you should check the cost of the transaction fees. Many players find that the ATM fees are much higher in the casino than at ATM machines in other locations. Using an ATM card is the least preferable of all the cash alternatives unless you can get a low fee for your transactions.
These are the best alternatives to carrying cash if you are only an occasional visitor to the casino. If you visit the casino on a regular basis you may want to apply for check writing privileges or establish full casino credit.

Bill Burton is the former Casino Gambling Guide and former columnist for the Internet portal About.com and author of “1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets,” as well as "Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em." Both books are available online at www.billburton.com.