This is a trend credit unions should keep an eye on, especially those offering credit card programs to their members.
According to the National Association of Convenient Stores, 60% of gas purchases were made by credit cards last year, namely for the convenience plastic provides. And Visa Inc. reported that 73% of respondents to its 2008 U.S. international travel outlook study prefer credit or debit cards as their payment method while traveling. Using credit cards is practical and quick--with pay-at-the-pump features, there's no need to leave your car and wait in line to pay. It can also be safer, eliminating the need to have large quantities of cash on hand to pay for today's higher priced fill ups--cash that can be lost or stolen. Paying by credit card includes consumer protections against theft and fraud. And, credit card payments provide a paper trail--a big downside to using cash. Many of these benefits would be impossible without interchange fees.
In today's economy, everyone is wise to look for ways to save money--consumers and retailers alike. No doubt credit union members are trying to find ways to cut back on expenses, and cash discounts at the gas pump may grab their attention. It grabbed mine. But while using cash to pay for gas can save dollars when filling up, its important to weigh these cost savings--likely less than $2--against the benefits lost when not paying by credit card.
CO-OP Financial Services
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.