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As the holiday shopping season gets underway, consumers looking to forego credit cards as their preferred payment method have another “card” up their sleeves.

EBillme, an alternative payment service, allows online payments to be made directly from your checking account. While that’s already possible using both debit cards and the online payment service PayPal, eBillme distinguishes itself by providing many of the benefits normally seen only in credit cards, including buyer protection and up to 5% cash back for select retailers.

That’s good news for the growing number of consumers who are accustomed to credit card perks but want to wean themselves off the burdensome debt that often comes along with plastic.

“In the past 10 years we’ve lived in a society fueled by competitive consumption and cheap credit, but that’s changed because of the economy,” says eBillme CEO Marwan Forzley. “The mentality that people have is shifting, big time.”

The numbers back up Forzley’s claim: Credit card debt has been falling steadily for the past two years and an increasing number of shoppers are planning to use cash instead of credit this holiday season. With 5% of shoppers still trying to pay down the credit card debt they amassed last Christmas, it’s not hard to see why some are trying to reduce their reliance on credit. 

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Still, credit cards have their benefits. Besides providing the ability to purchase an item now and spread out payments over several months, there are also many credit cards that offer cash back benefits and other rewards. Not only do credit-averse consumers miss out on these benefits, there’s evidence that cash-only households actually indirectly subsidize the awards enjoyed by credit card users. EBillme lets consumers with a “get the purchase out of the way” mindset (Forzley’s words) snag some of these benefits.

EBillme has partnerships with more than 800 online merchants, including Sears, Kmart and During the checkout process, shoppers with an account with eBillme can simply select it as a payment option instead of debit/credit. A bill for the item is then sent to users, who can pay it through their bank’s online bill payment program to complete the purchase. (Bills can also be paid at a bank’s walk-in location, though using online bill pay is sometimes a stipulation for receiving certain cash-back offers.)

Of course, the need to sign into a bank’s website and pay a bill adds a second step to the process, and many shoppers accustomed to one-click shopping will bristle at the reduced convenience. Still, those who don’t mind the extra step are rewarded with cash-back benefits of at least 1%, fraud protection and a best price guarantee, with eBillme paying the difference if you find a better price within 90 days of purchase. And as Forzley points out, eBillme provides security for those wary of handing over credit card numbers to online merchants – all you give the merchant is a name and an e-mail address.

In fact, some shopaholics may even come to appreciate the extra step inserted by eBillme. There’s ample evidence that the use of credit or debit cards increases impulse buying, both by allowing for quick purchases and providing a level of separation from the actual amount being spent. By forcing buyers to take a second look at the amount they’re spending – and see that sum compared with the money they actually have in the bank – eBillme could dissuade impulse buying and help consumers get their spending under control.

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