Making ₵ents – Oh, the Cost of Convenience

Making CentsGrowing up, I remember hearing the saying, “You can’t get something for nothing.” This was my mother’s way of reminding me that life is full of give and take. You can’t expect to get what you want without working for it or paying some sort of cost to receive whatever it is that you desire.

Recently, our kids wanted to stop by Gene’s Root Beer stand on our way back home from visiting my mother-in-law. While we were waiting in our car for the carhop to take our order, I was reviewing the menu.

That’s when I saw in small print, “$8 minimum for credit card purchases.” This wasn’t a big deal since we usually spend that much, or I have fun money for situations such as this.Minimum Charge

As Visa and MasterCard became more common on debit cards, businesses have had to evolve with their payment offerings. Not all business or government entities are designed to receive their payments via these instruments, and it got me to thinking: What are all the ways that businesses try to control their expenses as it relates to the use of debit or credit cards?

One option is what is what Gene’s does. By establishing a minimum purchase for product, the business is able to lessen the cost of running the bank card. Paying with a Visa or MasterCard costs the business money. You may not think about it, but they actually have to pay for the convenience of the customer to buy their goods or services with this payment method. The amount the business pays is determined by the amount that is processed over a billing cycle. By establishing a minimum, it allows the business to determine what price point is best for the business to accept the card.

On the flip side of a minimum purchase, a discount for cash is starting to make a comeback. Recently, I was making a purchase at a consignment shop. As I laid my purchase on the counter to check out, they asked if I wanted to pay cash and receive a discount. I happened to have cash and my debit card. I chose to pay cash; and by doing so, I reduced the buyer’s remorse that usually sneaks in when I buy myself clothes. I suffered no buyer’s regret with this purchase.

A third option is the surcharge for paying with a debit or credit card. The businesses that typically charge this fee are not retail chains. They add the surcharge to the amount the customer owes on their bill. I researched some of the businesses that serve our area and discovered the following add a surcharge: the county treasurer for your property tax bill, the water company, gas company, sanitation services, energy company, associations with annual fees, and many others. Some call this a convenience fee; and it may be a flat fee regardless of the amount of the bill, or it may be a percentage. Property tax bills paid online are added 2.95% of the amount owed when paid using a debit or credit card.

If you overlook a bill in your budget and need to pay last minute or want to pay something that renews automatically on an annual basis, plan for the fee. The business prefers payments made in other forms; but for your “convenience,” the company will take your bank card as payment. Just don’t let those fees throw the budget out of whack. You’ve been warned; you don’t get something for nothing, just like my mom said.

Kate is a financial expert of what to do and not do with money as well as owner of 4 Walls Financial, A Coaching Focused Company. She has attended and completed Dave Ramsey’s Counselor Training. Follow Kate on Twitter 4WFCoach, reach out to her via email at or visit Feel free to share ideas or questions for future articles.

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