City of Florence to end paying customers’ credit card fees

FLORENCE, S.C. — The city of Florence will no longer pay credit card, debit card or e-check processing fees starting the first of next year, which will save the city an estimated $400,000 a year.

Processing fees are charged by payment processing companies, not the city itself, so it is not a tax or additional revenue for the city. In almost every department, the city currently pays these fees for its customers, but officials said the funds are now needed to help balance other parts of the city’s budget.

“We are passing through our credit card fees to our customers like a lot of places are doing,” City Manager Randy Osterman said at a meeting with the press. “For years we have carried the burden of covering those charges, and it’s gotten to the point where it’s not just sustainable anymore.”

Starting on Jan. 1, 2024, when residents pay for any license, fee or other expense through the city of Florence, they will be charged a separate fee when they use credit cards, debit cards or e-checks. These fees will differ depending on the specific charge as each department uses a different payment processing company.

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The average fee will be between 3% – 3.5% of the charge. It will appear as a separate charge on statements.

Fees will not be charged for customers who pay in person with cash or a check.

City officials said the fees themselves have not necessarily gone up, but the money they spend on the fees is now needed to pay for the rising costs of things like electricity, gas and employee salaries.

Like its residents, the city is feeling the effects of inflation but has done its best to keep its taxes low, according to chief financial officer Kevin Rawlinson.

“We are fortunate that we have probably one of the lowest effective tax rates of municipalities of a similar size to us, and so we’ve been very conservative with how we budget, how we spend, even though we have the same constraints our citizens have,” he said.

To raise awareness of the coming change, the city is doing a marketing campaign through regular social media posts, emails, displays at city payment windows, meetings with the media and more.

For utility bills, a 3% fee will be charged for online credit or debit card payments made through the portal, automatic credit card drafts or automated pay-by-phone payments. There will be a $1.25 fee for e-check ACH payments.

From bagboy to district manager and everything in between, Marty Massey has been in nearly every job that a Piggly Wiggly grocery store has to offer in his 50 years at the company.

Utility payments made in person or by conversation with customer service will have a 3.5% fee with a $2.50 minimum for credit and debit cards or a $1.25 fee for e-checks.

For automated bank drafts with no fee or minimum charge, utility customers may contact the Utility Finance Department.

For hospitality charges paid by phone or in person, customers will pay a 3.5% fee with a $2.50 minimum for credit or debit cards or a $1.25 fee for e-checks.

If hospitality charges are paid online, the fee is 2.9% for credit or debit cards and the fee is .08% with a cap of $5.00 for e-checks.

For business license charges, customers will be charged a 3% fee for credit and debit cards or a .08% fee with cap at $5.00 for e-checks if paying through the S.C. Municipal Association Portal.

If not paying through the online portal, business license customers will be charged a 3.5% fee with a $2.50 minimum for cards or a $1.25 fee for e-checks.

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For permits, there will be a 3.5% fee with a $2.50 minimum for cards and a fee of $1.25 for e-checks.

For recreation and athletics registration and concession charges, there will be a 3% fee for cards with no e-check fee

For certain facility rentals and miscellaneous charges, the card fee is 3.5% with a $2.50 minimum, and the e-check fee is $1.25.

For animal shelter charges, customers will see a 3.5% fee with $2.50 minimum for cards and a $1.25 fee for e-checks.

Stripe payments for City Center Farmers Market Rentals will have a 4% fee for credit and debit cards.

Miscellaneous charges in all departments will have a 3.5% fee with $2.50 minimum for cards or an e-check fee of $1.25.

While the court already passes along its payment processing fees to its customers, the fees will be changing as the court changes to a new record-keeping software. These fees will go down to a credit and debit card fee of 1.7% plus $1.00 and an e-check fee of $2.50.

Currently, the court charges a 3.5% fee for payments made in person and a 7% fee for payments made online or over the phone.

Christian Smith covers city and county government, education, community events and more within Florence County. Previously, he worked as a general assignment reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times and as a city government watchdog reporter for the Hendersonville Times-News. Originally from Charleston, Christian graduated from Winthrop University in 2022 with a degree in Mass Communication.