A fee to pay? What’ll they think of next?

You probably don’t want to know. But companies are now routinely charging customers a fee (most of it is pure profit to them) to pay their bills. The latest, reports the Los Angeles Times, is a fee to pay a Verizon phone bill.

Beginning Oct. 16, Verizon Communications will charge $3.50 for any nonrecurring payment using a credit or debit card. In other words, if you don’t sign up for their regular bill-paying program and prefer to pay each month with plastic, you’ll pay more.

If that sounds as outrageous to you as it does to me, brace yourself: Other businesses, including credit cards, charge in the “pay to pay” scheme. You could be the next victim.

Chase bank, for example, says on its statements that “Chase Fast/Pay is a quick and convenient payment option … with one simple phone call.” If you need help from a living, breathing service rep, the charge is $20, according to the Times.

But even if you use Chase’s automated phone system, the charge is still $15.

But as I’ve reported on my travel blog, these “convenience fees” have been around a long time, and appear to be spreading.

Analysts believe the “convenience” fee for buying an airline ticket with a credit card has a bright future, and that it’s only a matter of time before being widely adopted.

Perhaps the only reason more airlines don’t charge them yet is that they may be interpreted as a violation of existing credit card merchant agreements in the United States. Germany recently banned the Irish airline RyanAir from charging a credit card fee.

Still, there’s immense pressure from the airline industry to add “convenience” fees to their tickets, and industry-watches say it’s just a matter of time before figure out a way to do it legally.

Companies are walking a fine line. If customers don’t like these fees, they’ll leave. A survey released just today suggests the American consumer is downright trigger-happy, when it comes to leaving a business.

Related story:   But I never asked for car rental insurance!

Maybe that’s something companies should consider when considering these new fees.

(Photo: Casey/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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