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Because it is the norm.

You're probably coming from the opposite frame, that requiring cash up front for all transactions was the norm. It wasn't. We've been extending credit and taking on debts for millennia. It's just how money works.

It for some weird reason is not the norm in a large part of the world (the individual credit lines for every little store thing, not the debt-based finance system in general) where it has been totally the norm to bring cash into stores for those everyday purchases. You had cash on you anyway, because people have always owned wallets, and it's not that much of a burden to carry a wallet with you.

It seems to me that this store credit thing has been very much a US thing, and it probably is the reason why credit-based electronic payment systems took over the US while at the same time debit-based systems accomplishing the exact same goal became dominant in many European countries.

Funny thing: when it comes to gasoline, the roles are reversed. In the US, you get no gas if you don't first go into that store and prepay or provide a credit card that guarantees a payment. In most of Europe, you just drive up to the gas pump and fill up, and then you go into that little store in order to pay.

That's a nice theory, but having credit at stores etc was a thing in Europe too.

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