Pacific Gas & Electric Becomes Largest Utility to Accept Credit Cards
By Liz Morris
Pacific Gas & Electric, which provides natural gas and electric service to over 15 million people in California, announced last week that it will now accept Visa credit card and debit card payments for its bills. By doing so, it becomes the largest utility to accept Visa. In the beginning of the 18-month pilot program, PG&E will accept credit card payments over the phone, with the intention to expand payment options to the Internet in 2007. If consumer interest is sufficient, PG&E will continue the credit card option permanently.
There will be no service fee for paying by Visa during the 18-month trial period; no word on whether that will change if the option becomes permanent. Other utilities that accept credit cards often pass through the charges that credit card companies charge them for accepting transactions. Those charges generally equal one to two percent of the total bill, although the utilities may structure their fees differently.
According to Visa, over 3,500 utilities across the United States accept Visa credit and debit cards. Visa cardholders paid $103 billion in household bills with Visa debit and credit cards for the year ending September 30, a 22.5 percent increase. Visa’s volume in the utilities segment increased approximately 40 percent during the same period.
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