Electronic Payment Options for the Water Company – What are They?

Over the last few months we’ve been approached by several members who have asked why the Water Co. doesn’t take credit cards, PayPal, or some other electronic payment option. Great question and one that we recently spent some time researching and discussing.

Here’s what we’ve learned

Credit cards, while convenient for the purchaser, are not necessarily so for the vendor. Depending on the credit card company (i.e. Visa, Mastercard, American Express) the vendor is charged approximately 2-3% (or more) per transaction and by law, the vendor IS NOT allowed to pass on that fee as part of the transaction. They can, however, give a discount for cash or ACH (Automated Clearing House); or can charge more for the service for which the card is used, thereby recouping the transaction fee.

PayPal, for all intents and purposes, works just like credit cards. It charges 2.9% plus $.30 per transaction and it makes clear on its website that a PayPal “vendor” cannot charge a higher fee for PayPal transactions than non-PayPal transactions.

What does that mean?

Using PayPal as an example, for the current quarterly residential bill of $240.00:

1. The Water Co. could “eat” the $7.26 charge ($6.96 + $.30)
2. The Water Co. could “bake in” the above charges but would have to do so for ALL MEMBERS, not just those that pay by PayPal (or credit card) and therefore our rates would go up.
3. In an informal survey of some of our members we learned that the majority of members WERE NOT in favor of paying more so that some would be able to pay their bill with a credit card or PayPal.

So, what are members’ options, then?

Certainly, we can continue to pay our bill by mailing in a check. Some have asked, by the way, why a check just can’t be dropped off.

The simple answer is that: 1) we don’t have a time stamp option at our business office, which is our secretary’s home, and 2) frankly we wouldn’t want members dropping off payments at someone’s home anyway and 3) the postmark is used by our secretary to determine if payment was sent timely.

We get it! We’re members too. It seems silly sometimes to write a check, put it in an envelope, take it to the post office here in town, have them cancel it (not sure if they do that here or if the mail is sent to a larger location) and then put it in our box. However, due to the constraints we’ve outlined, that appears to be the only option.

Well, not entirely!

Bill pay is a fantastic option that would eliminate the need for postage and therefore the requisite trip to the post office while at that same time ensuring that we get the necessary time stamp (postmark) at the business office.

Funny story…After Mark did the research outlined above and presented his findings to the other members of the Board, our President, Mary Young, said something to the effect of “I don’t think we need to go down this credit card/PayPal path; I just use Bill Pay.”

For those of you who know Homer Simpson, it was somewhat of a “Doh!” moment for Mark. Of course! Bill Pay! “Honey, can you set that up, please?”

Depending on your bank you may have different ways of accessing or setting up Bill Pay. On Wells Fargo, for example, you’ll find it under the “Transfer and Pay” tab. For El Dorado Savings Bank it’s located under the “Payments” label. Your bank, or bank’s website, should be able to provide assistance/guidance if you need it.

So, if you’re not already using Bill Pay, and you can, it is a great option. If you can’t, or prefer not too, then yes, we ask that you continue to follow the old-school path and mail in that hard copy check.

Author: markleevillewatercompany

We are a small water company that provides water to the Markleeville community.

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