The Wad of Cash

Flashing a fancy credit card once had the same cachet as wearing a Tom Ford suit or pulling up in a Bentley. “If you had a platinum card, you had a big portfolio,” says Matt Wallaert, a behavioral psychologist with the budgeting site A roll of twenties, on the other hand, marked you as a mobster. But these days, plunking down plastic suggests that you’re spending funds you don’t have—even if you pay off your bill every month. “In my circle of friends, if someone whipped out a conspicuous card to pay for dinner, we’d all be turned off,” Wallaert says. “Frugal is very in.” So go ahead and supersize that withdrawal from the ATM; just keep your wad to 15 bills or fewer—bulging pockets are still undesirable. Kayleen Schaefer

What good is a pocketful of cash if you don’t know how to use it to get better service? Here’s how to dole it out without feeling sleazy.

1. Start Small
“Most places, $20 can get you pretty far,” says Jodi R.R. Smith, a Boston etiquette consultant. To get a prime table, reach into your pocket for a Jackson while you ask the maître d’ for a better seat.

2. Practice the Handoff
Have the bill folded into fourths, but don’t attempt to palm it into the other person’s hand, Vegas-style. Just shake hands with your right and pass the money with your left.

3. Be Persistent
In posh hotels, the staff is trained to decline the bribe the first time, Smith says. If you ask “Are you sure?” a concierge or doorman will most likely accept the second offer.

Though a gnarly rubber band has a certain skate-punk appeal, a money clip is a better way to rein in your cash. A solid-sterling or matte-black one from Jan Leslie will do the trick without looking too showy. ($65,