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Businesses The Almighty Buck Transportation

Airlines Make More Money Selling Miles Than Seats (expressnews.com) 135

An anonymous reader shares a report: Does your wallet contain an airline-branded credit card? If so, your daily Starbucks visits, iTunes selections and dining habits serve a critical role in keeping the U.S. airline industry fat and happy. For carriers such as American Airlines, riding Citigroup Inc. plastic, or Delta, on American Express Co., these programs are a cash cow, a golden goose -- or any other fiscal livestock you care to conjure. Each mile fetches an airline anywhere from 1.5 cents to 2.5 cents, and the big banks amass those miles by the billions (alternative source), doling them out to cardholders each month. For the banks, people who pay annual fees for those cards in order to accumulate miles are the closest thing to a sure bet. These consumers typically have higher-than-average incomes and spend more on their cards, generating merchant fees for the banks. They also tend to maintain high credit scores, which means they pay their bills on time and banks experience fewer defaults. The airline-miles business, formally known as loyalty programs, has become a high-margin enterprise that's grown in size and value amid airline consolidation, with carriers keen to expand credit card rolls and see loyalty members spend more.
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Airlines Make More Money Selling Miles Than Seats

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  • Speaking of airlines (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 10, 2017 @11:25AM (#54206989)

    @United overbook #flight3411 and decided to force random passengers off the plane. Here's how they did it:

    https://twitter.com/JayseDavid/status/851223662976004096

    • by Anonymous Coward

      are you suggesting that's a new practice? That has been happening for decades.

      • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @11:52AM (#54207201)
        You're usually pretty safe from being bumped once you're actually on the plane though. Silly people, imagining that once they've paid for something they have any kind of rights.
        • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday April 10, 2017 @12:35PM (#54207599) Homepage Journal

          You're usually pretty safe from being bumped once you're actually on the plane though.

          "Pretty safe", yes, but you've never been completely safe. That said, the FAA has some well-defined requirements about how they have to treat people who've been involuntarily bumped, which includes a hefty cash payment (equal, I believe, to the full round-trip fare) plus a seat on the next available flight (on any airline, in any class at or above the class you paid for). I've flown over a million miles, and I've been involuntarily bumped exactly once. I got a $600 check and a first class seat on another flight, on another airline, 30 minutes later. The seat they bought me was on a direct flight, so I actually got home before I would have if I hadn't been bumped. Oh, and they still gave me mileage credit for the flight they bumped me off of. All in all, I was quite happy with the arrangement.

          Silly people, imagining that once they've paid for something they have any kind of rights.

          You do have rights, but they don't include the right to refuse to exit the plane when the airline tells you to. Whatever the reason, whether it's a good one or not, if the flight attendants or captain tell you to get off, you get off or the police will be dragging you off. If they kicked you off involuntarily, and not as a result of anything you did, you do have a right to compensation and transportation.

          • But ... I have more rights than you, because my life is eminently more important than yours! I DEMAND JUSTICE!!!!

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            "Pretty safe", yes, but you've never been completely safe. That said, the FAA has some well-defined requirements about how they have to treat people who've been involuntarily bumped, which includes a hefty cash payment (equal, I believe, to the full round-trip fare) plus a seat on the next available flight (on any airline, in any class at or above the class you paid for).

            How the heck is it even possible to get involuntarily bumped? Either you have a boarding pass with a seat assignment or you don't. Once

            • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @01:01PM (#54207881)

              "Pretty safe", yes, but you've never been completely safe. That said, the FAA has some well-defined requirements about how they have to treat people who've been involuntarily bumped, which includes a hefty cash payment (equal, I believe, to the full round-trip fare) plus a seat on the next available flight (on any airline, in any class at or above the class you paid for).

              How the heck is it even possible to get involuntarily bumped? Either you have a boarding pass with a seat assignment or you don't. Once you do, you have a seat. So this means they had to have taken someone who didn't have a seat and given that person a seat while forcing somebody else who already had a seat to give up that seat. That's completely idiotic. Just reassign the person who didn't have a seat before. They didn't check in early enough to get a seat, which was their decision. Why should people who spent the extra effort to check in and get their seat assignment have to suffer so that people who couldn't be bothered can take their seats?

              The only even semi-plausible situation that could explain this would be if the equipment changed to a smaller plane, but even then, they should have known about the reduction in seats prior to boarding.

              Because of several reasons. First of all, federal law allows the airline to overbook. Secondly, the plane is property of the airline. Third, the airplane itself is on property that is typically covered by federal law. You're also incorrectly assuming that United assigns seats based upon check-in. You pick your seat assignment when you book the ticket, or the airline picks one for you. They followed Federal law. The passenger was told that he needed to deplane. He refused. Once he did that, he was in violation of local and federal laws (federal because it was at an airport). He's lucky that he was not thrown in jail for trespass. It does not matter that he paid for a seat. Once his permission to be aboard the flight was revoked, he was required by law to deplane. The law also requires the airline to compensate him. They would have cut him a check and, as the GP says, probably booked him on a competing airline for free and given him a mileage credit. I've flown hundreds of thousands of miles and have never seen someone act this way, or seen someone be involuntarily bumped. I have had a schedule change screw me over in a similar way as this particular passenger. In that case, I was not given cash, but I did receive a new flight on a different airline and mileage credit for a flight that I would not have normally received miles for (it was an award flight that I had purchased with miles). The airlines will take care of you, they're required to. And even if there were no other flights that day, the passenger could have driven to Louisville the same day if he absolutely required it. People have been making a big deal about him being a doctor and his patients needing him. Well, what if he didn't show up for work because of a weather delay? There is no difference. His patients would have had to see an on-call doctor either way. The man should not feel entitled to fly just because he thinks he is more important than every other passenger on the plane.

              • by sabri ( 584428 )

                It does not matter that he paid for a seat.The man should not feel entitled to fly just because he thinks he is more important than every other passenger on the plane.

                You should go and read this again. A medical doctor, flying to a patient for surgery, with a paid ticket, an assigned seat, sitting in that assigned seat after boarding that aircraft, is not entitled to fly?

                Congratulations, you just made my top 10 of /. dumbest posters.

                • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @01:35PM (#54208173)

                  It does not matter that he paid for a seat.The man should not feel entitled to fly just because he thinks he is more important than every other passenger on the plane.

                  You should go and read this again. A medical doctor, flying to a patient for surgery, with a paid ticket, an assigned seat, sitting in that assigned seat after boarding that aircraft, is not entitled to fly? Congratulations, you just made my top 10 of /. dumbest posters.

                  Why don't you try reading the federal laws regarding air transportation? And why don't you read property laws? The airline is allowed to ask him to disembark from a plane for any reason at any time it is safe for him to deplane. He was asked to deplane. He refused and was therefore trespassing. Had he been flying Delta that exact same weekend there is a high probability he would not have been able to fly either. So what would his patient(s) have done? If you have a problem with the booking practices of airlines then you need to complain to your federal representatives.

                  • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                    If you have a problem with the booking practices of airlines then you need to complain to your federal representatives.

                    IOW, GFY.

              • I say bravo to this brave guy for bringing to people's attention this completely OUTRAGES Federal law that forces Police officers to treat Airline customers like criminals at the Airlines whim. Everyone should contact their representatives to remind them that they still represent us (in theory at least)
                • I say bravo to this brave guy for bringing to people's attention this completely OUTRAGES Federal law that forces Police officers to treat Airline customers like criminals at the Airlines whim. Everyone should contact their representatives to remind them that they still represent us (in theory at least)

                  You realize that this can literally happen anywhere, right? Including a hospital? You have no legal right to be on private property after being asked to leave. Period.

                  • You realize that this can literally happen anywhere, right? Including a hospital? You have no legal right to be on private property after being asked to leave. Period.

                    You do realize that there is not Constitutional right to operating a business. Business is regulated and often requires a license, which can be revoked just as easily as permission to be on private property. If a business doesn't serve the interests of the community it should not operate. Period

                    • You do realize that there is not Constitutional right to operating a business. Business is regulated and often requires a license, which can be revoked just as easily as permission to be on private property. If a business doesn't serve the interests of the community it should not operate. Period

                      Like I said, had he complied with the law (and left the premises when requested) the airline WOULD have accommodated and compensated him. They're required to by law. I'm not saying that the airline handled this in the most appropriate way, but the guy broke the law. Everyone is giving United a bad time while neglecting the personal responsibility that this passenger had to obey the law himself. I have a problem with that. Both parties behaved inappropriately but ultimately it was the passenger who brok

              • The man should not feel entitled to fly just because he thinks he is more important than every other passenger on the plane.

                Um, I think he assumed he was as important as every other passenger, not more important.

                The job market for Russian trolls must have slumped after the election, nice to see you're working again.

                • The man should not feel entitled to fly just because he thinks he is more important than every other passenger on the plane.

                  Um, I think he assumed he was as important as every other passenger, not more important. The job market for Russian trolls must have slumped after the election, nice to see you're working again.

                  And yet he was the only one of the four people who were involuntarily asked to deplane that refused to do so. So clearly he felt more entitled than the other three. And like I've said countless times he was breaking the law by trespassing. It could quite literally happen in any setting, including a hospital. If you're asked to leave, you need to leave. If you feel like you're being asked to leave unfairly then you need to protest that AFTER you leave because the law clearly is not in your favor once yo

                  • A doctor going to perform surgery on a patient may have very good reasons for wanting to stay on the flight he's on. Protesting after leaving the plane means leaving the plane and being delayed.

                    • A doctor going to perform surgery on a patient may have very good reasons for wanting to stay on the flight he's on. Protesting after leaving the plane means leaving the plane and being delayed.

                      Is this some life saving surgery? Doubtful! No one would be flying in for that. They'd have someone on hand. And as I've said, they have on-call physicians that handle such a situation. Do you think he'd be the first doctor ever to miss a surgery because of travel problems, illness, or a myriad of other reasons?

                    • Lots of things that have happened before that are undesirable to happen again. Personally, I've been just as happy to have the right people perform my surgeries.

              • Either you have a boarding pass with a seat assignment or you don't. Once you do, you have a seat.

                No you don't.

                So this means they had to have taken someone who didn't have a seat and given that person a seat while forcing somebody else who already had a seat to give up that seat.

                There are situations where the airline is required by law to do this. For instance, a child under 12 must be seated with a responsible adult, and if the airline needs to reseat or bump someone to do that, then that is what they are required to do. This happens all the time.

            • How the heck is it even possible to get involuntarily bumped?

              There are lots of possibilities. In my case, they had screwed up and assigned two passengers the same seat. Another thing that can happen is when they bump a "normal" passenger in favor of a high-status passenger. I was diamond medallion on Delta for a while, and one of the perks that comes with that status is that the airline guarantees that they will sell you a seat on any flight, even if it's already excessively overbooked, and (implicitly) even if that means they have to get someone else off. This usual

              • What usually happens is what happened in my case, nothing much.

                Just to be clear on what the guidelines are, they're here [cornell.edu]. According to your description, since you actually arrived before you were supposed to, the airline technically didn't have to pay compensation at all.

                As you can read in the guidelines, for involuntary bumping they aren't technically required to give you a big check UNLESS you won't arrive on-time (or within one hour of your scheduled arrival). Nor do they have to place you on the next available seat even if in a higher class or whatever -- thoug

              • I was diamond medallion on Delta for a while, and one of the perks that comes with that status is that the airline guarantees that they will sell you a seat on any flight, even if it's already excessively overbooked, and (implicitly) even if that means they have to get someone else off. This usually works out fine, because the high-status last-minute purchaser is paying full fare for the ticket and there are plenty of people who are willing to be bought off the plane for significantly less than that. But in rare cases complying with their commitment to the high-status passenger could require them to involuntarily bump someone.

                This is exactly the kind of problem that exists in the system: that some passengers are more equal than others. Thus the outrage. The "random" selection of passengers who were asked to deplane presumably did not include any of those more equal people.

                • I was diamond medallion on Delta for a while, and one of the perks that comes with that status is that the airline guarantees that they will sell you a seat on any flight, even if it's already excessively overbooked, and (implicitly) even if that means they have to get someone else off. This usually works out fine, because the high-status last-minute purchaser is paying full fare for the ticket and there are plenty of people who are willing to be bought off the plane for significantly less than that. But in rare cases complying with their commitment to the high-status passenger could require them to involuntarily bump someone.

                  This is exactly the kind of problem that exists in the system: that some passengers are more equal than others. Thus the outrage. The "random" selection of passengers who were asked to deplane presumably did not include any of those more equal people.

                  From the airline's point of view, some passengers *are* more equal than others. If you get in a situation where you have to pick someone to favor, it's much more important to serve a businessman who spends (well, whose employer spends) $100K per year on flights (many of them full-fare tickets) than a person who takes one deeply-discounted $200 bargain flight every three years. If you lose the latter's business, you haven't lost much. For that matter, the person with the deeply-discounted fare ranks below th

            • by slew ( 2918 )

              "Pretty safe", yes, but you've never been completely safe. That said, the FAA has some well-defined requirements about how they have to treat people who've been involuntarily bumped, which includes a hefty cash payment (equal, I believe, to the full round-trip fare) plus a seat on the next available flight (on any airline, in any class at or above the class you paid for).

              How the heck is it even possible to get involuntarily bumped? Either you have a boarding pass with a seat assignment or you don't. Once you do, you have a seat. So this means they had to have taken someone who didn't have a seat and given that person a seat while forcing somebody else who already had a seat to give up that seat. That's completely idiotic. Just reassign the person who didn't have a seat before. They didn't check in early enough to get a seat, which was their decision. Why should people who spent the extra effort to check in and get their seat assignment have to suffer so that people who couldn't be bothered can take their seats?

              The only even semi-plausible situation that could explain this would be if the equipment changed to a smaller plane, but even then, they should have known about the reduction in seats prior to boarding.

              AFAIK, you can legally be "bumped" for any reason (including if you have a boarding pass or are even on the plane). Airlines are allowed to make pretty much any decisions (takeoff-weight limitations, allowing frequent fliers or connecting passengers priority, or net revenue concerns) as long as they provide the legally obligated compensation to the person who was denied carriage. The FAA requires passengers follow crew member instructions at all times including disembarking the plane when requested.

              As to

            • by imidan ( 559239 )

              this means they had to have taken someone who didn't have a seat and given that person a seat while forcing somebody else who already had a seat to give up that seat

              Yes, that's exactly what they did. The people who didn't have seats were employees of United Airlines who needed to be on the flight so they could crew some other flight later. So they randomly chose four chumps to kick off the plane. If they'd taken care of this at the gate before boarding, we wouldn't be reading about it in the news. Some

          • That all sounds very reasonable. What are the odds that they walked up to the guy and explained it like you wrote ?
            • That all sounds very reasonable. What are the odds that they walked up to the guy and explained it like you wrote ?

              Impossible to say. There are a thousand ways it could have gone down, including the passenger beginning to foam at the mouth as soon as they said "Sir, we're going to need you to deplane", and the crewmember saying nothing but sending a cop to deliver a terse version of the message, backed up by force. I'm sure the actual event was somewhere in between.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you want to know real inside angles on that even, read the flyertalk.com thread [flyertalk.com].

      That thread is almost certainly being monitored by United Airlines. Back when I was flying on United a whole lot, they started an internet ad campaign that featured stylized persons that were supposed to be waving to a bunch of planes flying off. I posted that it looked like a bunch of Nazis giving the "Heil Hitler" salute to the Luftwaffe on its way to bomb London (and it did look just like that...), and within thirty minu

    • by rjune ( 123157 )

      It could have been worse, suppose they thought he was a guitar:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      They broke the guitar's neck

  • Can't RTFA.

  • by sodul ( 833177 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @11:28AM (#54207017) Homepage

    With cash back I get a very concrete view of what I'm getting back with real dollars and there is no blackout period or any of that BS. I only take the plane when I really need to though, with the trip back to europe every other year to visit family, and do road trips for most vacations.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I gave up on a miles credit card when the only tickets I could get were on 3-layover flights to Omaha in February. The airlines took all the value out of the miles.

      A switch to US Bank was a slight improvement -- their rewards points could buy tickets about 2/3rds of the value of the way it used to be with airline points, or you could buy stupid shit from the catalog.

      Switching to the Costco card was the best deal ever -- the reward rates are great, and I get $400 in cash nearly every year.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      With cash back I get a very concrete view of what I'm getting back with real dollars and there is no blackout period or any of that BS. I only take the plane when I really need to though, with the trip back to europe every other year to visit family, and do road trips for most vacations.

      That's really the only smart choice. Those airline cards were barely worth it when they were free. Once the airlines realized that there were enough suckers who would pay an annual fee for them, they became worthless junk.

    • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @01:16PM (#54208007)

      Likewise. People always point out that the miles are a cheaper way to fly than paying with money, but that presupposes you'll fly in the first place. If that's true for you, then great, that's money (maybe) saved. If not, then why not enjoy the fact that a trip not taken is cheaper than either using miles or using cash?

      When we got married, my wife was big on points rewards cards that offered watches, tech toys, and other such things. She pointed to a few things she bought with her points over the course of several years. When I asked how many of those things she would have bought in cash, had they handed her the cash instead, she said she wouldn't have bought any of them. When I showed her the prices should would have paid had she bought those things herself, she realized she wasn't actually getting a great deal at all (e.g. she thought the Apple TV 3rd gen was $100+ at retail, when it was actually $69 at the time). When I pointed to the cash rewards I had gotten from my card over that same period of time, she immediately switched cards.

      Cash is fungible. I can apply it however I want, I can change my mind about how I want to use it, and I can accrue interest on it too. Points? Not so much. Miles? Not so much. When using those systems I'm tied to those rewards, and my currency in those systems is out of my control and subject to capricious rules designed to ensure that I get as little benefit as possible.

      • It can be useful. I just got 100k points on a chase card. I can get a return ticket from US to Asia for that. Typically $1000+ for that ticket.

        Once I've claimed it and used it, I can just cancel the card, no harm, no foul.

        • Absolutely. I'm not saying that they're entirely devoid of merit. For people who are traveling regularly, they definitely can be well worth it. But I'd wager that most people view rewards miles as a way to afford a trip that they otherwise wouldn't have taken in the first place. For those people, the benefits are questionable.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There are several industries where credit makes comparable or more revenue for companies than their "main" focus. Film at 11! Err.., or more like never.

      Credit (usury) is evil. No? Wait until this "scheme" collapses, see what happens.

  • A title discrepancy here. While they do make more money giving incentives for using their branded credit card, literally buying miles is for suckers, which most frequent fliers know and they do not buy them.

    • Frequent fliers are, by definition, flying frequently. The summary seems to suggest that frequent flier miles are a huge free hand-out to airlines; yet aren't the frequent fliers actually consuming those miles, rather than letting them default and thus paying for them (or, well, diffusing the price through consumable goods, thus having everyone pitch in a little to pay for them) and not using them?

      • Banks purchase these miles in bundles of billions, giving the airlines a nice fat line to pad their paperwork with. If miles expire, or otherwise go unused then that is money in the bank for the airlines. Not every person who has points is savvy with how to use them. You can get 3-4c/mi if you like international business class. Most aim for about a 2c/mi redemption rate.

        I'm flying international business round trip on JAL to SE Asia for 140,000mi, or about $1400. A round trip economy ticket is about the

        • We spent $160,000 here over a few months to analyze the results of an upcoming event. We have some really smart people who determined who would buy what and how much they'd pay, and projected the most-likely outcomes so that we could position marketing and take actions which would cause outcomes worth several tens of millions versus just entering blind using a glance at historical data and some expert judgment.

          Do you honestly think banks don't do that kind of simulation? It's short-term, multi-variable

  • Here's the non-paywalled article from a week and a half ago https://www.bloomberg.com/news... [bloomberg.com]
  • What's the point of all these "loyalty" programs? Mostly to evade taxes. Highly paid management personnel might go on dozens of business trips a year, accumulating multiple free flights that they then typically use for personal travel. But of course they pay no income tax on the miles earned, even though by any reasonable definition it is compensation. The rest of us ordinary folks are just tagging along for the ride, and the airlines are increasingly finding ways to lock us out and restrict rewards to
    • Actually it would seem the extra merchant fees are diffused through merchant pricing, as the customer doesn't pay extra to use his card. For example: if fees of 1.5%, 3.5%, and 2.2% show up, averaging 1.8% of all purchases (including cash transactions with no fee), then all goods sold by the merchant get marked-up by 1.8% to include those costs. That 1.8% pays for the frequent flier miles (3.5% fee on those cards).

      Those miles are purchased with consumer after-tax money, and taxing them as additional i

    • "Evade" would mean that this is an intention maneuver to defraud the government, so I think you mean "avoid." But in any case, I think that the vast majority of people who participate in loyalty programs don't even consider the tax consequences. In effect, it might be a tax avoidance scheme, but in practice, it's de minimus, and no one gives great thought to is other than envious people who don't have the ability to participate.

      I'll admit, I have a lot of hotel rewards from frequent business travel, yet I d

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      I'd even go further and say it is a mild form of embezzlement, corruption, or at least some kind of fraud.
      Employees travel on their company's account and get miles on their personal account. It means they essentially get to use company's money for themselves. Companies are usually OK with it as it is essentially an undeclared perk, and we are back to tax evasion.
      The reason it is corruption is that when employees get to plan travels for themselves, what airlines do is essentially pay these employees personal

  • Why would anyone be dumb enough to pay a premium for a card that gets miles?

    Neither our personal credit card (US Bank Flexperks) nor our work card (HHonors Amex) costs ANY annual fee, and we get gobs of miles.

    • Why would anyone be dumb enough to pay a premium for a card that gets miles?

      I got two premium cards (one personal, one business) for Southwest Airlines that essentially got me a companion pass for $200.

      That meant my wife could fly with me for free, anywhere, for the next two years...

      I assure you I got WAY more than $200 of value from that perk. Not to mention I had, just for obtaining the cards, over 100k miles to use for toking flights as well.

      It's not like you have to keep the cards and pay the annual fe

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @11:42AM (#54207147)
    Risking a downmod but...

    Being familiar with the financial services industry, this is hardly a shock to me. Those addled to credit cards always balk when I ask "Who is paying for your bonuses/rewards/cashback" and then act with utter denial when I say "You are". They refuse to believe that banks (and other FS institutions) simply dont give things out for free, because there is no overt fee, they think no fee exists.

    Well let me screw your tiny little minds.

    Long ago, banks figured out fees turned customers off. So they took the fees off the card user and put them onto the merchants who accept the cards. Then some bright spark came up with the idea of adding in rewards to get you to use your credit card more. Because of this, merchants are at a competitive disadvantage if they dont accept credit cards and a financial disadvantage if they do, damned if you do and damned if you dont.

    So here's how it works.
    1. Bank encourages you to use your card.
    2. Bank charges merchant to accept card (or the merchant doesn't get paid).
    3. Merchant has to take it sans lube and raises prices to compensate.
    4. Bank passes on a pittance of what they took from the merchant back to the user.
    5. Card user thinks they're winning because they never saw steps 2 and 3.

    Your average rewards programme sees up to 3% returned to the user, usually less than half a percent. Meanwhile they're taking 3-6% from the merchant, the more "reward" you get, the more you're paying for it via price increases. Visa and Mastercard take up to 3 or 4%, premium cards like AMEX and higher end Visa/Mastercards take 5 or 6%

    Its a negative feedback loop, however some will defend it to the death because they dont see its coming out of their pockets. I almost have to admire the Machiavellian brilliance of getting people to defend being ripped off.

    "Points" cards are the golden goose of this rip-off system as points dont have to have any real monetary value, redemption values can be arbitrarily changed and they can be expired.

    Now here in the UK, the EU imposed a maximum limit that banks can charge merchants... so rewards programmes are hard to come by over here, however it means we're only paying 1-2% extra for credit card purchases.
    • For an individual consumer, the best strategy is *still* to try to maximize whatever reward payback from the cards.
      • no, for an individual consumer, the best strategy is to, whenever possible, ask for a discount at least equivalent to the fees charged by the card to pay in cash, this way you recoup all the fees and not only the peanuts the bank throws back at you.
        • Rare that you'll get that kind of discount unless you're buying something big.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Good god. You are really suggesting I ask for a 5% discount on my bread and bubblegum purchase, cocktails at the bar, gasoline, power bill, etc.? On 75%+ of purchases the mere act of having a conversation immediately negates the entire benefit of the discount because I value my time. Add in some denials and its a negative sum game.

          Not saying the OP's point isn't valid but on all but the largest purchases it is currently in the consumer's best interest to maximize their individual outcomes which means using

        • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday April 10, 2017 @12:53PM (#54207779) Homepage Journal

          no, for an individual consumer, the best strategy is to, whenever possible, ask for a discount at least equivalent to the fees charged by the card to pay in cash, this way you recoup all the fees and not only the peanuts the bank throws back at you.

          Yeah, walk up to the cashier in your local grocery store and ask for a cash discount. Good luck with that.

          In places where you're talking to the owner, or at least a very empowered (and smart) manager or employee, you might be able to get them to knock 3-5% off for a cash payment, but it's rare. Everywhere else... get the best rewards card you can, and use it as much as possible.

          I actually had the "cash discount" discussion last month when I bought a car (actually bought out my leased car). The dealership's policy is to accept plastic for purchases up $4K, so I offered to pay $4K with the card and the remaining thousand or so with cash. Once they said okay, I offered to pay cash if they knocked an additional $150 off the price, since that is about what they were going to pay in card fees. They refused. They also refused to knock $100 off. So, I paid with the card and got my 2% (a little under $80) discount that way. Unfortunately I noticed later that there was a promotion on my Discover card that I could have used to get 5% back, so I could have gotten $200 back (and they'd have undoubtedly been soaked for a bit more than that).

          • In places where you're talking to the owner, or at least a very empowered (and smart) manager or employee, you might be able to get them to knock 3-5% off for a cash payment, but it's rare.

            It's also important to note that handling cash is not free. Let me say that again: handling cash is NOT free.

            Somehow, I think all the pro-cash anti-card people think that every business magically ends up with just the right set of bills every day to pay its employees and start the next with a full cash register set to give change, etc.

            In the real world, most businesses have to deal with banks a lot to process cash: they need to stock enough cash for change for customers, they need to transport cash bac

            • In places where you're talking to the owner, or at least a very empowered (and smart) manager or employee, you might be able to get them to knock 3-5% off for a cash payment, but it's rare.

              It's also important to note that handling cash is not free. Let me say that again: handling cash is NOT free.

              Very true.

              Many years ago I designed a cash management system for a large grocery store chain. "Designed" because we didn't get the contract to build it (I don't recall why). It included counting machines that shrink-wrapped and barcoded stacks of cash, barcode readers at counting stations, safes, and in armored cars as well as at point of sale stations (where they already existed), a centralized cash-tracking system that knew where every bundle was and was integrated with the employee management system so

            • If businesses did not like credit cards they would offer better cash payment options. But the only businesses that have any special rules for cash payments that i have heard of restrict the use of large denominations for in cash. I do not imagine businesses get coned out of goods with fake credit cards, but fake cash is a real issue, and the mint is not going to reimburse them.

        • If I'm buying from a farmer's market or the local butcher, maybe, the local grocery store doesn't have the capability to do that with their POS system.
        • I've heard anecdotally that many payment processors put language in their merchant agreements that explicitly prohibits charging a different price for card users specifically to prevent the merchant from discouraging card payments.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )
      I probably should state that I'm not anti-credit.

      Yes I have a credit card.

      However credit cards need to be treated like the sugar of personal finances. Its OK to have a little, but using it every chance you get is very bad for you.

      Credit cards are useful for deposits (I.E. hotel or rental car) and for building a credit history to make other forms of credit easier to get (everything from a phone contract to home loan), however depending on one for day to day purchases is foolhardy and reckless. It on
      • by Anonymous Coward

        You do know you can use a credit card while having savings in the bank to cover such purchases. I buy everything with a credit card and then pay it off. I have plenty in the bank to pay it off at any given time so there is no risk of some sort of event to affect my ability to pay. Additionally, if I had not used credit my cash balance would be reduce the same so its not like there is some sort of inefficiency to having that cash sitting around as compared to debt / cash payment.

        Plus I get the rewards and

      • I have a credit card, but all charges are automatically paid off at the end of the month. I get the convenience without the interest.

      • Pay it off in full each month and you won't pay interest. If you have no annual fee (and I have no problem getting such a card), you're paying nothing besides what you charge. In exchange for that, I get discounts and about a 1.5 month float if I need it (which I don't), and some additional protection.

        I can't be rendered incapable of paying my card without something drastic, since I've got savings and liquid assets far in excess of my credit limits, and if I have to declare bankruptcy I won't have cred

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      Shorter version: you should spend your days worrying that someone is making a few cents off your credit card transactions and all you're getting in return is easy transactions and airline miles. Because making money on transactions is bad or wrong or something.

    • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @12:02PM (#54207289) Homepage Journal

      The cardholder doesn't pay; everyone pays. The cardholder with the highest-merchant-fee card is not paying that merchant fee; it's averaged across all transactions, including cash (0% fee) transactions. That means cash holders pay the largest mark-up and get nothing; while high-merchant-fee rewards cards with no cardholder fees pay the same mark-up (read: no additional cost over just paying cash) and get the maximum return (read: what's purchased by those merchant fees is paid for mostly by all other consumers).

      Everyone pays into the system. The guy with the best rewards comes out ahead; the guy with cash comes out behind; and the guy closest to the average-fee rewards card essentially gets a wash.

      • by slew ( 2918 )

        Not quite. In fact it isn't some vague "system" that pays, it's generally the *merchant* and the *poor* that pays the differential.

        * cash transaction - merchant has to pay bank cash deposit fees (yes, merchants have to pay to deposit cash into banks ~0.3%), best for merchant
        * standard credit card - merchant pays a small merchant fee to payment processor (~1-2%) , second best for merchant
        * rewards credit card - merchant pays a premium "rewards" merchant fee (~2-3%) to the payment processor who gives that mo

        • It's the poor who are most-impacted. The general middle-class are less-impacted, and some are frequent fliers; the upper-class may or may not be frequent fliers, and don't spend all their time on airlines. The very-rich have private jets. Everyone at every level tries to optimize for their particular case, but may have a less-expensive option (e.g. 1.5% cash back is worth 1.5%; 2.2% frequent flier miles are worth 2.2%).

          As well, the upper class are fewer and gain less by spending on consumer goods. Th

      • Everyone pays into the system. The guy with the best rewards comes out ahead; the guy with cash comes out behind; and the guy closest to the average-fee rewards card essentially gets a wash.

        Well, you're of course assuming a case where a card user NEVER carries a balance and pays off immediately every month. It's always important to remember that more than 1/3 of American households carry credit card debt from month-to-month. (After the recession, it was closer to 45%.) And of those households who have credit card debt, the average debt is over $15,000. At the average interest rate for credit cards, that translates to over $2500 just IN INTEREST every year.

        So, for a lot of people, the guy

        • Balance on the card is a separate issue. Cardholder rewards generally come from merchant fees; the interest on the card is interest on a loan from your bank.

          Without cardholder rewards, merchant fees would be relatively-flat due to competition being entirely based on merchant fees. More merchants accept Visa than Mastercard nowadays.

    • But if you're shopping somewhere that doesn't charge less for cash transactions than they do for cards, you'd be silly to not use a card that doesn't cost you anything directly (no fee and always paying it off before interest accrues) but gives you some tiny bit back. Might as well get a tiny slice of that action.

      The extra cost is already baked in the prices, you as one individual not using a card with some sort of cashback type thing isn't going to change anything.

      > Its a negative feedback loop, however

    • Yes, the price of merchandise includes fess to credit card company and yes it is the fees that pay for these rewards.

      But as a customer, you pay the merchant the same price whether or not you pay with cash or a credit card. The customers that are really getting ripped off are the ones paying the inflated price, but not getting an rewards back.

    • by sootman ( 158191 )

      Fabulous points, all. But in the end, you should go ahead and take advantage of a rewards program because they're too popular to stop and you're already paying for it anyway.

      It's like when phones used to be on subsidized two-year contracts -- your bill was going to stay the same in the 25th month, so if you didn't get a phone each time you were eligible, you were just leaving money on the table.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday April 10, 2017 @11:53AM (#54207211) Homepage
    flight attendants: "for those of you in economy class, please step forward and use the bone saw to remove your legs at the knee for storage in the overhead compartment. Pretzel dust and warm pepsi will be provided once in flight, along with the entertainment of a partially eaten magazine about our CEO's latest hunting trip in the alps. Those of you in our platinum, rhodium, saphire card club, or other rare and exotic metals often associated with conflict mining, please proceed to the front of the aircraft and take your seat stolen from the lobby of an upscale motel. You will be permitted to eat with a real fork, provided you've prostrated yourself accordingly to the TSA and said your daily supplication to the holy terror alert list. "
  • If you just pay careful attention to benefits, you can get a ton of value from these milage cards.

    Yes you have to pay an annual fee. But you can usually quite a lot of bonuses that can mean a huge savings on travel.

    The thing to do is to have some specific purpose in mind before you get one of these awards cards, so you have something you know you will use the benefits for that gains you a lot more than any fees you are paying.

    You can always cancel the cards before the annual fee comes up...

  • I have been using a "rewards" card for a few years now. I pay $89 a year for the privilege. I use this card for just about everything, from groceries to monthly bills. I pay my balance in-full every month, so with the 3-week grace period, I'm only paying a couple dollars interest each month. The bank makes money off of it. I get much more than the $89 + a few bucks interest out of it. I usually rack up about $800 in rewards every year, plus I am insulated from fraudulent purchases (twice last year, "my card
  • I've twice signed up for airline credit cards when traveling with my family because they offer to waive the baggage fee (at least for the first bag per ticket). Even if I hadn't canceled the card before having to pay the annual fee after one year, I still would have come out ahead.

    Though the last time we flew, I went to Walmart and bought some carry-on bags that were cheaper than the checked baggage fee. Still, when flying with a family with connecting flights, checking baggage is nice.

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