Update: Less than a day after a Verizon Wireless employee leaked a memo with this information, the company has announced that it will not be moving forward with the implementation of this $2 fee.
The sad fact is we now live in a world where many companies have left their customers behind in the search to squeeze every possible cent out of every transaction. I’ve long lamented the increasing incidental fees charged by airlines; you can’t eat, check a bag, or receive a seat assignment early without paying extra now, and soon you may not be able to sit or use the restroom in-flight without swiping a debit or credit card. Gas stations charge more for fuel if you want the convenience of using a credit card. Banks tested and for the most part ultimately backed away from monthly debit card fees.
Starting January 15, Verizon Wireless will charge its own customers $2 to pay their own mobile phone bills.
Only certain payment methods will be subject to this fee, but the new policy leaves only a few opportunities to avoid this surcharge:
- Enroll in auto-payment, so your bank account is debited or your credit card is charged the same day every month.
- Mail a paper check as if you’re still living in the twentieth century.
- Use your bank’s bill payment service.
- Walk into a Verizon Wireless store and pay a bill in person (an option for everyone, but a popular for those without bank accounts).
- Pay with a Verizon Wireless gift card.
If you use a credit or debit card to pay your bill via Verizon Wireless’s website or over the phone, the $2 fee will apply, but if you pay via check (electronic ACH or paper) via phone or online, there is no fee. It’s another case of payment type discrimination; it costs more to process credit and debit card transactions, and Verizon Wireless is passing that cost along to certain customers. The customers most affected are those who need to wait to the last minute to pay their bill — customers living paycheck-to-paycheck, many of whom don’t have bank accounts.
It doesn’t take much to avoid this fee, but it’s another hassle for many customers and an indication that the pattern of nickel-and-diming across a variety of industries will continue. And those most at risk are those who have the least power to do anything about it.