Four studies that examined two factors in purchasing behavior: when consumers part with their money -- cash versus credit, and the form of payment -- cash, cash-like scrip, gift certificate or credit card.
"The more transparent the payment outflow, the greater the aversion to spending or higher the 'pain of paying,'" the researchers said in a statement.
Priya Raghubir of the Stern School of Business at New York University and Joydeep Srivastava of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park asked participants to read various buying scenarios and answer questions about how much would they spend using cash versus various cash equivalents.
"The studies suggest that less transparent payment forms tend to be treated like play money and are hence more easily spent," the researchers said. "Treating non-legal tender as play money leads to overspending that authorities can warn consumers about."
The findings appear in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.