How to disable Credit/Debit Card use at specific businesses?
July 17, 2015 12:32 PM   Subscribe

I need to figure out how to make my cards useless at a few locations near me.

I'm running into some self control issues that I would like to get over. I frequently spend money at local chain restaurants for a quick bite instead of preparing food for myself at home. Generally, I can be fairly disciplined about this kind of thing, but when it comes to food, I've been unable to change my habit. It's a waste of money, and unhealthy! Hell, I even love to cook.

I'd love to eliminate the option. Is there a way to identify the businesses and effectively "block" my cards from working there? I bank with Bank of America. Any ideas much appreciated.
posted by no_context to Work & Money (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I know with corporate cards, it's possible to block certain categories of purchases like "gasoline" and "airplane tickets", but for this you would have to block all restaurants, if it's even possible on consumer cards. Would that be acceptable, or you only want to block certain restaurants?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:44 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ondot may be able to help with this.
posted by notyou at 12:47 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ondot looks like something the financial institution would have to participate in.

This may sound kind of evangelical, or something, but maybe an accountability partner/software?
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:17 PM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, Ondot generated a bit of press last year, but it looks like they haven't been able to sign up any partner banks, save one.
posted by notyou at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I frequently spend money at local chain restaurants for a quick bite instead of preparing food for myself at home.

I hate to be one of those Ask answerers who suggests solutions unsought-for, but if you're getting to the payment option part of the transaction before needing something to force you to not eat/spend at fast food joints that's way too late in the decision-making process. I recommend taking a few steps back in the process that leads to you standing at the counter at your local fast food joint and see if there's something that can be done to another aspect of your life to help you eat meals in the way you'd prefer.

If it has to be a financial restriction, then do it when you're budgeting for a given time period. Budget your grocery food, plan your meals, and don't give yourself any leeway to spend at fast food joints. But also look at the other hurdles to preparing meals at home to see if there's other areas you can make it easier on yourself: Schedule time for grocery shopping, and go with a list. (In other words, plan your meals.) Plan commute times and your work/evening schedule to account for an hour in the kitchen making/eating dinner. When you start to incorporate those routines into your eating habits, it'll be easier and easier to decline the quick bite fast food route.
posted by carsonb at 1:34 PM on July 17, 2015 [13 favorites]

Stop carrying your card. Carry cash. (Google "Envelope method") When the cash is gone, its gone.
posted by anastasiav at 1:40 PM on July 17, 2015 [18 favorites]

As with carsonb, this obviously isn't quite what you're looking for and is way more low-tech, but something that works for me is putting a little note in my wallet in the ID pocket (my wallet has one pocket covered with clear plastic that I think is supposed to be for a work/school ID or something else you'd need to flash quickly - I don't have a use for this). It says something to the effect of "How is this purchase enriching my life?" It's enough to force me to take a second thought about whatever I'm about to purchase and often decide the purchase is NOT really enriching my life. In your case, it could say NO FAST FOOD. Because, after all, even if one of your credit cards is blocked at one of these restaurants, you can still always spend cash or use your debit card or whatever.

I also think carsonb is on the money that part of the key is putting infrastructure in place to make cooking at home easier. Even if you block yourself from X restaurants near your house, you can still call Dominos for delivery or walk a little further. But if you're disciplined about meal planning, grocery shopping, and prepping ahead on the weekends so that weeknights are easy, cooking at home will fall into place much more easily. I also like to keep a list in my Google Drive of quick pantry meals that I can always make, and additionally keep a few backup choices in my freezer (like frozen ravioli, pot pies, stirfries, etc. -- not the healthiest, but a lot cheaper than eating out when I'm really in a pinch).
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:41 PM on July 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Carry gift cards to 'good' stores?
posted by teststrip at 2:07 PM on July 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

i was just wondering what alternatives might exist, and googling "phone gps alarm" suggests that might be a thing. you could maybe rig your phone to buzz angrily at these fast food joints?

(do you live alone? cooking and eating alone kindof sucks. maybe batch preparing and freezing food might help? or some kind of award system - you can buy yourself a mcdonalds or whatever at the weekend if you go all week without, etc. good luck!)
posted by andrewcooke at 2:13 PM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I just read The Power of Habit. You might want to give it a shot.
posted by adamrice at 2:37 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Go to the restaurants and give them photos of yourself with "Do not serve" written underneath.
posted by mpark at 2:41 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

It might be easier to create a penalty for using the card. You could use something like IFTTT or some other scripty thing to automatically donate money somewhere you hate, or post an embarrassing Facebook status update, or etc., if it detects a new purchase at that restaurant.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:48 PM on July 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

Not really possible given current controls over card.

Best is probably going to be some combination of methods mentioned:

1) Do NOT carry card, carry only cash, and allocate only X amount per day. Carry a card for emergencies only, and put it in a red envelope, sealed, that you have to physically break the seal to get access to.

2) Use geofencing software to create alarm for all the various restaurants and such in your area. I think Llama for Android may do it, but there's always Tasker.
posted by kschang at 11:10 PM on July 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Since it doesn't look like what you want is technologically feasible, I have another suggestion for your situation: Stock up on some healthy snacks that can tide you over while you cook. That way you can deal with that immediate OMG I'M SO HUNGRY I NEED TO EAT RIGHT NOW OR I'M GONNA DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE feeling without leaving the house.

These nut bars are really tasty and relatively healthy.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:47 AM on July 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Maybe also shift your cooking to earlier in the day -- if you can get a meal into the crockpot every morning, then you'll always have dinner waiting for you at home instead of facing the prospect of preparing something when you're tired / hungry / stressed / etc.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:49 AM on July 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have instant, healthy snacks available at home?

Grape tomatoes (wash and eat)
Sugar snaps / snow peas (wash and eat)
Carrots (wash and eat - you don't even have to peel them if you're too tired)
Tinned tuna
Tinned smoked salmon
posted by Year of meteors at 8:10 AM on July 18, 2015

"if you're getting to the payment option part of the transaction before needing something to force you to not eat/spend at fast food joints that's way too late in the decision-making process."

Also, kind of a dick move. The people working at the "local chain restaurants" would be taking your order and possibly starting cooking food for you by the time your card would be declined. Time, maybe supplies that you would be wasting for them, both with monetary value.

Then the employee gets the stress of a declined card; people can throw really horrible tantrums for those declined transactions, and while we can assume you'd be more gracious than that... the employee wouldn't have any way to know. More time and energy and hassle.

I *think* you were saying that if you knew your card wouldn't work at the "local chain restaurants," it'd keep you from going at all. Which is not the same. But in case you hadn't thought about "what happens if I forget?" or "what happens if I try to go anyway?"--by shoving the decision-making/self-control onto someone else, you'd be creating stress and waste for the people who' d have to tell you "No."

(It sounds like it's probably technically not doable for you anyway. Just... it's not a thrilling prospect for the people at the restaurants, either.)
posted by galadriel at 6:53 PM on July 18, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all the kind replies. It looks like my technologically this is impossible, though perhaps will be possible sometime in the future. If I had a knack for software, perhaps it could be done.

Great advice re: making cooking easier, creating better habit, carrying cash, self reminders, et. al. As is often the case with solutions involving self discipline - there is no easy way out. Discipline is the only way to achieve discipline. And with that proveb-ish conclusion, I make my exit, hopefully to better habits.
posted by no_context at 12:25 AM on July 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

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