Make us your home page

Retail credit cards add $1 fee for paper bill

Ever since the banking meltdown, Allen Schwartz knew he would face far higher credit card interest rates sooner or later. But he was stunned to learn he also must pay $1 a month to get a Beall's credit card bill mailed to his New Port Richey home.

"Outrageous," said the postal worker. "In this economy, how can a store charge to send a bill?"

For anybody who thought store credit cards might be a way around the avalanche of new fees banks are dreaming up to shore up their credit card business, think again. Alliance Data Systems, the Dallas bank that handles credit card business for Beall's and 90 other chains ranging from Ann Taylor to Victoria's Secret, is notifying cardholders they all must pay $1 a month for printed statements.

Alliance points out that online payment accounts and e-mail billing alerts are free. But not everyone has access to the Internet or has taken the leap of faith to put their financial information there.

Some utilities and cell phone companies coaxed customers to switch to online billing by pitching convenience or appealing to environmental sensitivities to save paper.

Alliance says its fee recoups only the extra cost of a new federal credit card law requiring more disclosure of card terms.

"The new requirement we disclose standard terms on each monthly bill will increase our paper costs 30 percent," said Shelley Whiddon of Alliance Data.

"That's the first time I've heard that one," said Charlene Crowell, a spokeswoman at the Center for Responsible Lending, a North Carolina nonprofit research firm.

It's one of several tactics card issuing banks are using to maximize their fee income to offset the new law, most of which takes effect Feb. 22 and limits interest rate hikes and hidden over-the-limit fees.

The center found some tricks lurking in the fine print that banks are trying to get back some of an estimated $50 billion the law costs them:

Pick a rate: Many banks have shifted from fixed to variable interest rates. Variable-rate cards traditionally are usually tied to a specific prime rate. But some now permit the bank to charge the highest prime rate of the last 90 days. So the consumer gets no benefit from a rate decline.

New or higher fees: Minimum finance charges of $2 even on balances as low as a penny, $3 transaction transfer fees increased by $1 or $2, minimum cash advance fees imposed and ceilings eliminated. Some shrank the value of rewards points.

Inactivity fees: While many banks are shifting customers to annual fee cards, a few now impose fees for not using a card enough. The center found inactivity fees as steep as $36 for a card not used for a year or charged for less than $2,400.

"Everything is fair game as the banks talk about creating fees we haven't even imagined yet," said Bill Hardekopf, chief executive of, a Birmingham, Ala., Web site that compares more than 1,000 credit card deals.

"This is the first we've seen a card issuer charge for a paper bill. But if they don't lose many customers, it will spread fast because this industry has a herd mentality."

Schwartz is still waiting.

"I'll cancel the card the first time they bill me $1 for their bill," he said.

Mark Albright can be reached at or (727) 893-8252.

Retail credit cards add $1 fee for paper bill 01/04/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 6:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Study: Tampa Bay a top market for homebuyers on the move

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, ATTOM Data Solutions says.

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, a survey found.
[Associated Press file photo]
  2. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  4. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants the Constitu?tion Revision Commis?sion to ask voters to repeal the state’s system of partial financing of statewide elections.
  5. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.

    No way.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]