For decades, Americans have used credit cards to fund their purchases today and pay for them later. However, the millennial generation is changing these rules, often preferring to spend using cash, checks, and debit cards over credit cards. But according to a 2021 survey in The Ascent, “45% of consumers prefer to use credit cards to make their purchases, making it the most common payment method. That number is up from 36% in 2019.” 
Stashing plastic tightly in your wallet sounds like a great strategy for anyone trying to avoid debt. That being said, many credit cards offer great benefits that you won’t want to miss out on.
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“The biggest misconception consumers have about credit and financing is that it leads to overspending and leverage,” said Julie Pukas, head of U.S. card and merchant solutions at TD Bank. “It’s true that using credit can lead to these things, but when used responsibly, credit cards are a financial tool that allow consumers to shop safely and securely while earning cash or other rewards.”
Click through to find out what can happen if you don’t use credit cards.
1. You miss out on free money
By paying with cash, shoppers miss out on cashback and other lucrative rewards.
For example, depending on how much you spend, you can accumulate $150 in cashback over the year if you get a rewards card that gives you 2 percent cash back on dining and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Some cards even allow 3%-5% cashback on other purchases and the percentage increases with partner merchants depending on which credit cards you have.
For some consumers, that $150 can add up to a month of free gas or several months of free coffee. Choosing cash over credit means “consumers are leaving that money on the table,” Pukas said.
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2. They have a hard time building credit
Without a credit card, you have a harder time building up credit. By opening an introductory credit card account, making payments on time, and having low balances, young consumers are laying the groundwork for a strong credit history.
“Strategic and wise use of credit allows consumers to build strong credit scores,” Pukas said. “This credit profile allows for significant interest savings when financing larger purchases such as a home or car.”
3. You are struggling to get a mortgage
Mortgage lenders consider a variety of factors when making lending decisions, but they place a high value on credit history. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, consumers with good credit are entitled to much better credit terms.
MyFICO has a loan savings calculator that makes the benefit of good credit crystal clear. Enter changes to a hypothetical credit score into the calculator—all other variables remaining the same—and you’ll see how a lower credit score can cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
4. You get lousy car loan terms
Like mortgage brokers, auto lenders take creditworthiness heavily into account when making auto loan decisions. Few Americans have enough money to buy cars with cash, so most finance their purchase.
Good credit — which can be built and maintained by using credit cards responsibly — can help you get much better car loan terms.
5. They don’t have comprehensive fraud protection
In the age of identity theft, all consumers are at risk of being harassed by someone who steals their card or card number, hacks into their account, or otherwise spends their money fraudulently.
It’s much easier to flag and reverse charges on your credit card than recovering money withdrawn from a bank account through dishonest use of your debit card.
“If someone is using your debit card fraudulently, they’re spending your money that’s in your account,” said Matthew Coan, who owns financial comparison site Casavvy. “If someone uses your credit card for fraudulent spending, they’re spending the credit card company’s money.”
6. You’re short on cash
Using a debit card instead of a credit card can cause unexpected problems. For example, hotels and rental car companies often place a temporary money hold on debit cards when you use them to check in, draining your bank account.
Once the companies are paid in full, they will refund your money. However, the refund can take some time, leaving you short on cash or potentially facing an overdraft if the money was held on a debit card linked to your bank account.
7. No one will assist you in disputes between traders
Have you ever bought an item only to find that its quality was slightly less than advertised? If you pay with cash you might be unlucky to get a refund. At the very least, you may have to go through a lot of trouble to get your money back.
However, if you are purchasing the item with a credit card, the issuer will usually step in on your behalf. “The added weight of the card issuer supporting the individual may prompt the merchant to remedy the situation,” said Scott Vance, owner of Trisuli Financial Advising in Cary, NC
8. They reduce emergency fund options
Poll after poll shows that most Americans have very little money saved for an emergency. That means they would have a hard time coping with unexpected medical or dental problems, car repairs, or a job loss. Most experts recommend saving and stashing a minimum of at least three months’ worth of expenses.
Emergency funds shouldn’t just consist of credit cards. However, a credit card can supplement and support an insufficient emergency fund. The more responsibly you use a credit card, the more likely you are to be approved for higher lines of credit that can provide additional cushioning for an emergency fund.
9. You hurt job prospects
Many companies pull applicants’ credit reports as part of employee background checks. Though the practice is controversial, a bad credit history — or lack of credit history — can decrease your chances of getting a job you’re otherwise qualified for.
“Credit reports indicate whether or not you’re responsible,” finance expert John Ulzheimer told CNBC. “And they also indicate if you are in financial distress. These are attributes that employers care about.” 
10. You pay more for travel
Get a travel rewards credit card and enjoy benefits you wouldn’t get if you paid cash. According to Forbes, there are two types of credit cards that can save travelers real money:
General Maps. These offer points or miles that can be used towards travel-related expenses.
Brand specific cards. Airlines and hotels offer these cards for travelers who stay with a specific chain or airline.
Lucrative sign-up bonuses are another benefit for travelers. These bonuses can include bonus miles, a free flight ticket, a free hotel night or cashback.
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Jake Arky contributed coverage to this article.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 10 things that happen when you don’t use a credit card