Ask Money

Cash or credit

Chris Farrell Apr 28, 2010

Question: I understand that merchants are paying a 1 to 5 percent transaction fee every time I use my credit card. It would seem logical that I could offer cash to merchants and split the difference with them for that transaction fee yet with rare exception they look at me like I had two heads when I make the suggestion. How can I get a cash discount from groceries, big box stores and gas stations? Phil, Saint Louis, MO

Answer: I remember my Mom doing just what you suggest. A lot of times she would ask a merchant for a discount in return for paying cash.

But she only made the offer when she was shopping at a small local store and when she was dealing with the owner. Most employees at large retailers–especially grocery chains, gas stations, warehouse stores, and other large enterprises–don’t have the authority to make that kind of deal. Still, you could try again with an owner of a small business near you where you’re a trusted customer. Strike up a conversation and see what happens. Even if the owner says no I bet you’ll end up learning more about the business, which is usually fascinating.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.