A "convenience charge" for paying in cash. Really?

My cousin just went to the AT&T store to pay his cellular phone bill (yes, he’s old-fashioned) and was told that he would be charged a $5 “convenience charge” if he paid in cash. How does this jibe with “This note is legal tender etc.”? Could AT&T say “Yes, we’ll take your cash but the convenience fee is (pinkie to mouth) one million dollars.”

I suppose one answer is, “If you don’t like the fee then don’t pay in cash or use someone else.” But that doesn’t really answer how they can legally charge for using cash or what the limits of such a policy would be.

They’re charging you for the time spent making the live person work.

If the bill is for a debt already incurred under contract, then cash should be a satisfactory payment of the debt, unless the contract says something else. The problem may be that somewhere in the fine print of the contract of adhesion that AT&T offers there is a mention of this “convenience fee”.

They are skirting around the issue by calling it a “fee” for cash.

In Chicago the CTA does this. If you get on a bus with a card you pay $2.00 if you pay cash you pay $2.25

The only thing you can do is look at it this way: Your bill is actually $5 more than they say. People who pay online with a credit card get a $5 discount.

Yeah, it’s stupid, but their goal is to eliminate the breathing body in the store. Actually, they want to eliminate the store altogether.

That’s how several companies introduced it here in Germany, too: Get a 5 Euro discount if you receive your bills online instead of getting them by mail (risking also to forget looking and then getting hit with a late payment fee!)
Get another discount if pay bills online or with a transfer.

Banks did this, too: do a transfer with telephone banking, the terminal or online for free; drop a transfer paper at the bank and the fee is 1 Euro (because it needs to be scanned and processed).

As already said, they are charging for the work involved with counting and processing the money (and an employee has to then carry the money to the bank for deposit). A modest fee can be expected to stand up in court; a fee of one million dollar, I have a hard time believing that this would be accepted.

Similar irk I have is that in my county when you renew your car tags annually, you have the choice of doing it online or going to the local DMV office and doing it in person. The county actually has the audacity to charge you more ($5) if you renew online. The call it an electronic convenience fee.

So they are incentivizing people to take off work, go to the DMV, wait in line and take up the time of a DMV employee to process my payment . Ridiculous. It’s just an additional tax. They know most people will go ahead and pay it online to avoide going to the DMV office.

What they should be doing is encouraging people to renew online so they can close more DMV offices and cut cost. But that would make sense.

Skirting around what issue?

As Giles says, cash as payment for a debt should be sufficient. I think AT&T and the CTA can get away with it is that they are charging for the next month, next ride etc.

It is sufficient. The money you bring them will pay the bill, the bill that costs $5 more.

It’s not audacity. It’s the fact that I, as a taxpayer, should not have to eat the fees charged by Mastercard/Visa/Amex to renew your license.

Now, they could jack up the rates and then those schleps walking in and doing business in person wouldn’t be any the wiser, but maybe it’s nice to reward them for their time.

But we’re talking about the difference between future and past services. Could Exxon charge me an additional $5 for last month’s gas purchases? I really don’t know.

That’s not the reasoning for the charge though, as has been mentioned. You’re charged for a combination of that employee having to take the payment at all and the store itself needing to move the money to a bank when it all could have been avoided if done through check/money order/internet/carrier pigeon.

The DMV office takes Visa/MC as accepted payment if you pay in person with no additional charge. Your point holds no water.

They should say it and account it that way then.

Where I am the DMV contracts with an outside company to process on-line renewals and the fee they charge is to offset that cost.

But the county is arlready saving money by not having to employ workers in the DMV office to process those renewals. There’s no way that an online service is more expensive than having live bodies individually process the renewals. Your DMV is jerking your chain as well.

Right. This may or may not be a good idea for other reasons, but it makes sense on its own terms. (By which I mean, Omar, that there is a separate service that the DMV is paying for–not that you’re wrong about the relative bottom lines.)

It makes no sense to charge more to somebody who wants to pay in person with cash. Other methods are stand-ins for cash in person.

But the County is substituting one cost for another. They don’t have to pay the person sitting at the DMV office to process my claim, therefore they are saving that money. Yes they have to pay the webservice company to process my renewal, but there’s no way the incremental cost of online processing is more expensive than in person processing by a person. There’s no reason for the county to charge an additional fee, other than it’s an additional tax.