Credit card purchases trigger same chemical reaction as COCAINE

How credit card purchases trigger the same chemical reaction in the brain as COCAINE and drive more spending

  • Contactless payment limit increase to £100 sparked fears over household debt
  • Research suggests credit cards ‘step on the gas’ by putting costs out-of-mind
  • Study found that credit card purchases give the brain the same ‘hit’ as cocaine  

It will come as no surprise to compulsive buyers who say they’re addicted to spending.

But research shows credit card purchases give the brain the same ‘hit’ as cocaine and spurs shopping sprees.

It has long been known that shoppers tend to spend more when using plastic instead of cash – and the recent increase in contactless payment limits to £100 have sparked fears over household debt.

Now a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that credit card spending triggers the same chemical reaction in the brain as addictive drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.

Researchers found that credit cards ‘step on the gas,’ by putting costs out-of-mind, regardless of expense. It has sparked concerns over household debt, as contactless payment limits are set to rise to £100 later this year 

The researchers found that credit cards ‘step on the gas’ by putting costs out-of-mind regardless of expense.

But different cards can spark different desires, the study showed. Cards used in restaurants and on holidays create a greater appetite for spending than cards used to buy fuel, for example.

The study’s co-author, Professor Drazen Prelec, said: ‘The reward networks in the brain that are activated by all kinds of rewards are activated by a credit card purchase.

‘The act of putting that plastic credit card in your hand is associated with enjoyable purchases.’

The researchers studied brain scans of participants who used personal credit cards or cash to make real purchases of everyday products.

The findings, published in journal Scientific Reports, found that cash purchases did not stimulate ‘reward networks’ in the brain.

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that credit card spending triggers the same chemical reaction in the brain as addictive drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed in the Budget that the limit on a single payment using a contactless card would rise to £100 later this year.

The pandemic has accelerated the decline of cash, with shoppers encouraged to use contactless to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

It has been less than a year since the limit was raised from £30 to £45.

There was a 16 per cent increase in the total value of contactless payments in the UK in October, compared with the same month a year earlier, according to the latest data from banking trade body UK Finance. 

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