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Put Your Credit Card on Ice

This article was written by in Credit. 11 comments.

One of the most popular suggestions for people trying to cure themselves from overspending with credit cards is to freeze credit cards in a block of ice. It’s a cute approach to removing the temptation to overspend. It’s a fun concept to consider. You can make an event out of the freezing process. Invite your wife or husband and your kids to help. Partly fill a bowl with water, freeze the bowl for a few hours, drop in your credit cards and continue filling the bowl with water, place the bowl back in the freezer, and check back in a few hours. The result is a block of ice with credit cards securely frozen in the middle.

The block of ice prevents you from carrying the credit cards in your wallet or bag. You won’t have them with you, so, in theory, you won’t be able to give in to the temptation to spend. If you do need them in an emergency, you can go home, break the block of ice, and present a wet card. The frozen cards aren’t completely inaccessible, they’re just inconvenient.

It’s a nice gimmick, but this just isn’t a good long-term solution in reality.

  • Overspending can be an addiction. Certain activities are addictive because they trigger the brain’s pleasure centers. For individuals whose spending habits have become so bad they need to continue buying things to feel good, a block of ice is not going to get in the way of having a good time. Not everyone’s spending habit approaches the level of addiction, though. For many, a block of ice will work as a deterrent, but it won’t last forever.
  • Freezing a credit card doesn’t solve the desire to spend on credit. Removing the ability to fulfill a negative desire, such as spending to the point where income can’t cover the purchases on a long-term basis, doesn’t address the root cause. Anyone who is a compulsive credit spender needs to address the issue directly. Sometimes, spenders need to seek professional help. Again, not every over-spender’s behavior is damaging enough to warrant outside assistance.
  • The block of ice can’t always be the first step. When people hear the advice to freeze their credit cards, they may find the idea innovative and clever, and jump to this approach before carefully considering their financial situation. If income is a problem, quitting credit cards cold turkey isn’t going to work. You can’t tell the parents of a family of several children to stop buying food if they have no income. Some situations call for a gradual reduction of credit card spending.

What do you think? Is the concept of literally freezing your credit cards a gimmick without proven effectiveness or is it a great idea for resisting the temptation to spend?

Photo: Jökull Sólberg Auðunsson

Published or updated June 30, 2011.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Sarah

Freezing credit cards won’t help if you have your credit card info saved in Amazon or something for online shopping. I actually *know* my credit card number without having it on hand, so this would only really keep me from spending money at a physical store.

I vote gimmick.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

Even a crutch is a tool. This is surely a gimmick but it could serve as a reminder, depending on how often you go to the freezer, of the goals/decisions you’re trying to achieve/stick with. When I drove a big American car from Germany into England (ferry, of course) they gave me a stick-on sign that said DRIVE LEFT in big orange letters – It worked – as a reminder of my goal of not killing myself while there. Use it if you want.

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avatar 3 wylerassociate

freezing credits cards is a gimmick, if i am recklessly spending money on credit cards then i would cut up 1 card pay off the debt then cut up the next card and pay off that debt.

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avatar 4 skylog

agreed. this always made me laugh. sure, you can’t bring a block of ice to the store, but you can sure use it online. this approach solves nothing.

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avatar 5 Ceecee

You can call anywhere or go online and use the c.c. number. I stopped getting the newspaper and not seeing all the ads is a good thing. Ads make you think you need stuff that you don’t need—-that’s part of their reason for being. And it works for them.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

Putting your credit card on hold is the same as giving up food if you are fat. Take control of your spending and credit card then there is no reason to put your cc on hold.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

Yes, it’s a gimmick, and yes it will work with some people. If you decide you don’t like it, you can always thaw them out and use them. But it forces you to slow down and think. Not all of us have the will power to quit cold turkey, this helps.

The last comment mentioned giving up food, I’ve seen people post signs on their fridge or a picture of a really fat person. Works the same as the “DRIVE LEFT” sign mentioned earlier.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

This whole topic reminds me of the hilarious scene in Confessions of a Shopaholic where the main character has not confronted her basic issue (spending addiction) and tries freezing her credit cards. She closes the freezer door, a look of accomplishement on her face, but a very short-time later the viewer is treater to a montage of her trying desperately to get her cards back out of the block of ice because there’s a “huge sale” at her “favorite” department store. :)

I agree that it’s a gimmicky approach, but as other have said, if it works for you go for it. Addressing the underlying causes of debt and spending addiction is also key, of course.

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avatar 9 Cejay

We tried this with our credit card early in our pursuit of no debt. Our card warped and cracked from the cold of the ice. Then when we needed it we could not use it. Something to think about.

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avatar 10 qixx

Don’t let online places save your credit card information and browse the web without a card within arms reach. This combined with “losing” your cards, then calling to report them as lost (even if you find them in your wallet right after making the call), and don’t try to remember them anymore; will take care of knowing your number by heart.

I also find freezing with nitro and “testing” the frozen card with a hammer to be more effective than just freezing in a block of ice.

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avatar 11 Anonymous

Is probably a good way for those who need a bit of psychological help with refraining from using their credit cards, and even more so if that type of person is carrying a balance and/or spending more than they have.

But, if you are a responsible spender, and are responsible with credit card use specifically then using a credit card can actually REDUCE your costs (for example those that give cash back).

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