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River Heights soon will accept credit cards for utility bills

October 11th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Megan Allen

RIVER HEIGHTS–Within the next few weeks, River Heights will make utility bill payment easier and more convenient for residents by accepting debit and credit cards in the city office.

Until now, the city has accepted payment only by cash or check.

“Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of people asking me to let them pay with their card,” said Sheila Lind, city recorder. “I think it’s something worth considering.”

Lind said she has talked to other city officials in Cache Valley who highly recommend allowing card payments.

“Using cards helps people be better at keeping up with their bills,” she said, referring to her conversation with Providence officials. “It will also mean dealing with fewer bounced checks.” If residents do not pay their bills on time utility service is suspended.

Glen Murdoch, vice president of Zions Bank, came to a recent City Council meeting to discuss the process of adding payment methods and different options with the council. Murdoch discussed the fees associated with card payments and the different options that are available.

To start allowing card payments, the city would have to purchase a machine which usually costs around $250, Murdoch said. These machines last a long time and will not have to be replaced very often.

The extra charges associated with card payments will depend on the type of card, he said. Credit card companies will charge a small percentage of the total bill. Most charge 2 or 3 percent, which in most cases will average costing the city a total of $30 a month. Debit charges would have a flat fee, rather than the percentage. Murdoch said he would recommend working with Zions Bank because they almost always have the lowest fees.

“You want to provide as many ways for your clientele to pay you as possible,” he said. “Our goal is to provide a cost-effective way to provide this convenience to your citizens.”

Three members of the council have formed a committee to research the different options with banks throughout Cache Valley. They will talk to representatives from America First Credit Union and Cache Valley Bank, institutions they have worked with in other monetary matters.

Another option suggested for convenient bill payment for River Heights residents is online bill pay.

Councilman Rob Gines suggested the city try using just card payments for now, and in three months they will evaluate its success. If things have gone well, they will start accepting online payments.

Online payments will cost the city more upfront, said Murdoch. There is a computer program associated with online payments. The city has one version of the program already, but it would need to be upgraded. This software upgrade would cost approximately $4,500.

Another option for the future is for residents to set up an automatic payment plan. The money will be automatically withdrawn from their checking accounts on the payment deadline through a program called Automatic Clearinghouse. Setting up this program would cost the city $100 upfront, and an additional $30 per month.

“I think this is definitely something worth trying,” said Mayor Bill Baker.

“The bottom line,” said Murdoch, “is that you’re going to collect more money if you accept cards.”


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