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Credit cards are an increasingly essential technology, but they carry with them the paradoxical capacity to propel consumers along lifestyle trajectories of marketplace freedom or constraint. We analyze accounts provided by consumers, credit counselors, and participants in a credit counseling seminar in order to develop a differentiated theory of lifestyle facilitation through credit card practice. The skills and tastes expressed by credit card practice help distinguish between the lifestyles of those with higher cultural capital relative to those with lower cultural capital. Differences in lifestyle regulation practice are posited to originate in cultural discourses related to entitlement and frugality.

Rights © 2005 Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.

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