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City looks to expand payment options

December 5, 2012
By DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

Fees on credit card purchases made to the city could see a shift to consumers.

However, that shift would also have an upside: it would provide citizens with the option to pay with a credit card over the phone or to pay online.

The Marshalltown City Council discussed using iCash, a system for credit card payment sponsored by the Iowa League of Cities, at its Monday night meeting.

Shari Coughenour, city clerk, said the program allows the city to offset some of its cost while enabling the consumer to choose how to pay any money he or she owes the city. At least a few times a week, she said, people call wanting to pay online or over the phone.

"They get frustrated if they have to mail an old fashioned check," she said. "It's kind of an instant gratification thing it should be a consumer decision if they want to do it for the convenience."

The city absorbed a little more than $700 in credit card fees last year, according to the Finance Department. A year's subscription to iCash costs $800.

Coughenour said there is no reason the city should assume that credit card use would stay flat. And as it increases, iCash will save the city more money while offering options to its citizens.

If the city goes with iCash, those using a debit card or paying online would incur a $2.95 service charge. Those using a credit card would pay on a sliding scale depending on how much money they are charging. That scale goes from a $4.70 fee - for purchases less than $50 - all the way up to $100.95 - for purchases exceeding $2,500.

Several cities around Iowa have already begun testing iCash. However, Fort Dodge is the only city roughly the same size as Marshalltown, and city officials there only use iCash for utility payments.

Although the council did not outright oppose the idea, its members directed Coughenour to look into the cost of other programs and see what other cities comparable to Marshalltown have done in similar situations.



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