Credit cards date back to the early 1900s, but they were all essentially store cards: You could only use them locally at that particular business. These days, you can buy everything from a bottled water to a car on a credit card. But here are six weird credit card uses that probably never occurred to you…
1. Pay a speeding ticket
Many local courts will gladly accept credit cards to pay speeding tickets — as I recently discovered to my dismay.
Some will tack on a small “convenience fee,” since many government entities are exempt from laws forbidding companies from charging the same. This is a win for everyone, since courts receive timely payment without worrying about checks bouncing or being lost in the mail, and citizens can quickly receive confirmation they’ve paid their fine — and can move on with their lives.
2. Pay the babysitter
You don’t have to scrounge for cash at the end of the night out to pay your babysitter when you use sites such as Care.com and SittingAround. Not only will these services help you find a sitter, they also take payment online using your credit card. On the other hand, savvy sitters can simply hook up a Square payment device to their smartphones and accepts cards at your house.
3. Pay a parking meter
On the parking meters in Denver, Minneapolis, and other cities, right above the vertical coin slot is a horizontal slot for your credit card. Somehow, these meters are able to authenticate the transactions in just a few seconds, so you no longer have to search under your floor mats for loose change or risk getting a ticket.
4. Pay to visit a foreign country
Most Americans are unaware that most foreigner visitors to our country have to pay all sorts of entry fees before they can visit. To increase that awareness, other countries, particularly those in South America, have begun charging American visitors a “reciprocity fee.”
While some countries require this payment in cash at a consulate or upon arrival, at least one country is simply accepting credit cards online before arrival. Argentina now requires Americans pay their $160 reciprocity fee online and a $20 “service fee” before you board a flight. Thankfully, travelers who are caught unaware can whip out their credit cards and smartphones at the check-in counter rather than be denied boarding.
5. Pay for stuff at flea and farmer’s markets
Farmers markets are all the rage now, and flea markets never go out of style. In the past, merchants were hampered by their inability to accept only cash, but now they’ve modernized and use Square and other forms of mobile payment systems. One elegant solution is the Square Stand, which turns an iPad into a de facto cash register.
6. Buy marijuana
Both Colorado and Washington State have legalized recreational marijuana sales, and several other jurisdictions have legalized medical marijuana in recent years. Since pot sales remain illegal under federal law, merchants have a hard time opening bank accounts to handle their cash — but many are still able to accept credit cards from their customers.