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How credit cards serve as lifestyle facilitators

Research in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research investigates how credit cards serve as lifestyle facilitators, allowing us to buy what we previously could not and to live a life that otherwise would be unattainable.

"The broader import of credit cards lies beyond their use as a tool to bolster purchasing power, or even as a stimulus for pathological consumer behavior. Rather, it lies in their use as a lifestyle-facilitating technology," argues Matthew Bernthal (University of South Carolina) and colleagues. "Credit cards make immediately obtainable consumption markers whose acquisition would have been less available to the majority of the working and middle classes of previous generations."

Previous to this study, researchers had not explored the issue of debt as a defining lifestyle characteristic nor how consumers cope with this debt once entrenched in it. Of particular interest is the idea that credit cards can facilitate a consumer's freedom as much as they can bring with it certain market constraints. While theoretical in scope, this new research offers greater insight into how researchers must think about credit card indebtedness and its impact on lifestyle.

"The data presented here support a dynamic, practice-based model of the relationship between consumer lifestyles, credit card practice, and by extension marketplace institutions. Consumer credit card practices in part define the meaning of consumption lifestyles and facilitate their attainment through consumption. Conversely, some credit card practices act to impede consumers from attaining or maintaining desired lifestyles," conclude the authors.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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