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:   The smarter consumer: Learning to speak corporate-ese

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 check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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