Independence reimposing credit card fees

By Mike Genet

Independence utility ratepayers will again be charged a fee if they pay their bill using a credit or debit card. 

The City Council voted Monday to stop waiving the $4.95 credit card convenience fee for utility bill payments. The change is effective June 1. 

The credit card fees have been waived since April 1, 2020 – shortly after the pandemic started – as a way to help citizens cope with the sudden costs or loss of income. 

The city started implementing the fee in 2019, and at the time city staff said about 40 percent of utility customers paid via credit card or eCheck. The $4.95 fee covered what the city’s credit card processing vendor charged, as the city cannot make money on processing.  

Since the city started waiving the fee last spring, it has absorbed more than $1.26 million in processing costs through the utility funds – $260,000 in the last three months of 2019-20 fiscal year and $1,008,000 thus far in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which ends June 30. 

When voting for the fee, Mayor Eileen Weir said at the time she believed “citizens should not be asked to subsidize their neighbor’s use of convenience.” 

The convenience fee does not apply to mail-in payments or any form of walk-in payment, including credit card, and utility customers who have automated bank draft payments are not charged extra. 

City Manager Zach Walker acknowledged the city’s fee was more “compared to some other peers.” 

Blue Springs does not charge a fee for paying its water bill online with credit card, while Lee’s Summit has had a $2.95 fee. Jackson County has fees that are paid directly to the third-party vendor upon transaction – up to $2.15 per transaction, or 2.15 percent for transactions greater than $100 on credit cards and 1.5 percent for transactions greater than $66 on debit cards. Kansas City also has a third-party convenience fee.